Sean Langan (born 1964) is a British journalist and documentary film-maker. Langan works in dangerous and volatile situations; including environments noted for war, conflict and civil unrest. In 2008 he was kidnapped along with his translator while filming in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region. They were freed three months later after Langan's family had negotiated their release.
The ordeal, ransom and criticisms
Bafta nominee Sean Langan, 43, who was working for Channel 4's "Dispatches" television series when he was abducted on March by the Taliban in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, was "safe and well" after release on 21 June 2008 in Islamabad, Pakistan.
Langan was held hostage by the Taliban for 12 weeks after trying to make contact with Al-Qaeda’s second in command, as he searched for associates of Osama bin Laden. Langan stated he believed Channel 4 paid "compensation" to those who held him for his release. In his first broadcast interview since the release, Channel 4 News presenter Jon Snow asked whether a ransom had been paid. Langan replied: "No. I think a bit of compensation, not to the Taliban, but to some of the people in the house I believe, but I don't know." Channel 4's position was: “This was a very complex and delicate negotiation and Channel 4 provided Sean’s family with support and expert advice. We don’t think it is appropriate to go into the detail of the dialogue that was necessary to secure Sean’s release. We shared information with the Foreign Office throughout this process.”
After suffering mock executions, Langan and his translator Sami were freed and sent back to Britain: “I thought it would be a miracle if I got out of there alive. Death was at my door every night. It makes you see your life like never before. It was a constant barrage. They could hear machine guns, anti-aircraft guns and rocket-propelled grenades going off the whole time. But they weren’t being shot in a contact [firefight] – it sounded like training. The door would be kicked in in the middle of the night and they'd tell the translator that they were going to behead us.'” He lost 3 stone due to dysentery at a Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Area (FATA) mountain. Imprisoned in a small, darkened basement cell, which had a hole in the ground for a toilet, they were brought 2 meals a day of bread and “stringy” meat.
The Foreign Office was "furious" at the ransom of Langan, for it "will increase the risk of Britons being kidnapped in future." Tory MP Philip Davies said: 'I don't believe in basically caving in to kidnappers in any way, shape or form. It creates a more unsafe environment for everyone. It is just encouraging them to do this to other people. If they did ignore Foreign Office advice given to them then it was wholly irresponsible.' Tory MP David Davies, also, said: 'I can see why Channel 4 felt this obligation and why people do pay ransoms to release valued employees or loved family members. The trouble is stepping back and looking at this from a distance. It almost certainly will lead to further kidnaps taking place.'
- African Railway (2010) - BBC Two / BBC Four
- Fighting The Taliban (2007) – Channel 4
- Meeting The Taliban (2007) – Channel 4
- Afghan Ladies' Driving School (2006) – BBC Two / BBC Four
- Mission Accomplished (2004) – BBC Two / BBC Four
- Travels With A Gringo (2003) – Channel 4
- Langan In Zimbabwe (2002) – BBC Two / BBC Four
- Langan Behind The Lines (2001) – BBC Two
- Nightmare In Paradise (1998) – BBC Two
- Fighting the Taliban won the 2007 Rory Peck Award for Features.
- Mission Accomplished was short-listed for an International Documentary Association (IDA) International Documentary Award for a feature documentary (2005) and a Rory Peck Award.
- Mission Accomplished was also voted one of the top ten Documentaries in the world in 2005 by the International Documentary Association.
- Langan Behind the Lines was short-listed for a BAFTA, a Grierson Award; from the Grierson Documentary Film Awards which were established in memory of pioneering documentary film-maker John Grierson, and a One World Media Award from the One World Broadcasting Trust.
- Official website for Sean Langan
- BBC4 on Langan's work in Iraq
- BBC4 on Langan's work in Afghanistan
- BAFTA: the British Academy of Film and Television Arts
- The International Documentary Association: the mission of the International Documentary Association is to promote non-fiction film and video around the world
- afp.google.com, British reporter released from capture after three months
- mirror.co.uk, Afghans release C4 journalist
- timesonline.co.uk, Film-maker Sean Langan kidnapped in Afghanistan is set free
- guardian.co.uk, Channel 4 paid my captors, says kidnapped documentary maker
- independent.co.uk, When the life of a hostage lies in their hands
- dailymail.co.uk, Channel 4 blasted for paying ransom for reporter held by Taliban criminals