FORMER MONITOR REPORTER RECALLS CAPTURE DURING VIETNAM WAR

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Former Monitor Correspondent Elizabeth Pond remembers walking through the Cambodian night with her captors, hoping the moonlight wouldn't shine and make them visible targets for American planes.

In 1970 while covering the Vietnam war, Ms. Pond and two colleagues had inadvertently wandered into an area controlled by pro-Sihanouk forces and were taken hostage. They were transported at gunpoint in a truck through several villages and displayed as American trophies.

At the final stop, they were blindfolded and walked through a gantlet of jeering villagers. The men were tied to a motorbike and forced to run, still blindfolded, for half a mile.

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''We were obviously quite frightened,'' says Pond, an author and freelance journalist who now lives in Germany. ''At the same time, operating as journalists, we were taking in all the details, realizing we were getting to see things we wouldn't have an opportunity to see in any other way.''

After the initial day, the journalists were treated well. They were held for five weeks, guarded by a small contingent of Cambodian Front soldiers and moved from village to village. They were told it took that long to establish they were journalists, ''good people,'' not in the employ of the CIA.

Pond says she was never again in a situation that invited that kind of danger, but she hopes her experience would not have dissuaded her.

''I think that as a reporter the only way you can get the story is to take risks,'' Pond says. ''If you play it safe all the time, you remain within conventional wisdom and you don't get that added dimension of discovery.''

But she adds that it is imperative for editors, publishers, and the public at large to back up reporters who put themselves on the line for the truth.

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