Kidnapped journalist admits 'mistake'

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Pål Refsdal, the Norwegian journalist released by kidnappers in Afghanistan last week, is back home in Norway and showing some signs of remorse for the trouble he caused for himself, his interpreter and dozens of Foreign Ministry staffers who worked hard to save his life. The risks he took have spurred new debate over whether Refsdal should be ordered to pay compensation.

Refsdal spent most of Monday facing reporters and even a few politicians who think he should be held financially responsible for his actions.

Refsdal said he was sorry for the problems he caused for the Foreign Ministry, which set up crisis centers in Oslo and Kabul to deal with the incident. He also was sorry that the Afghan interpreter kidnapped with him now feels forced to flee to Pakistan for security reasons, and he thanked the international and Norwegian media for refraining from reporting anything about his kidnapping until it was over.

He said he was “surprised” when he heard that the Foreign Ministry had as many as 100 people working to free him.He seemed to have no regrets, though, for actually entering the dangerous Kunar Province despite warnings against doing so. He made a “mistake,” he conceded to newspaper Aftenposten , but it only involved his decision to rely “on the wrong man,” someone he thought was a Taliban commandant who would help him report on the Taliban’s side of the war in Afghanaistan. Instead his source ended up being part of the group that kidnapped him and his interpreter, who told NRK they were simply “bandits.”

Refsdal defended his attempt to cover the Taliban in Kunar Province on an NRK talk show, Redaksjon en , Monday evening. “If we want to see reports from areas like this we have to travel there,” Refsdal said. “If I, as a journalist, am to make such a film, I unfortunately can’t follow official travel advice.”

Members of Parliament from parties including the Conservatives (Høyre) and the Liberals (Venstre) have suggested “adventurers” like Refsdal should assume financial responsibility for their decisions. The Foreign Ministry had said it would consider filing a compensation claims against Refsdal, but now says it likely won’t, since no special equipment like helicopters was hired in to save him.

Harald Henden, a photographer for newspaper VG who has covered wars, told NRK that he didn’t think traveling into Afghanistan’s most dangerous province could be justified. “It borders on the irresponsible to travel there,” he said.