FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE


 

 

For Release: Aug. 7, 2006

CNN Documentary Yields Unprecedented Oral History of Osama bin Laden

New CNN Presents Reported by Christiane Amanpour Features 21 First-Person Accounts

As the nation prepares to reflect upon the lessons learned during the five years since Sept. 11, 2001, CNN will debut a powerful new documentary about the world’s most notorious terrorist.  Reported by CNN’s chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour, CNN Presents: In the Footsteps of bin Laden will premiere on Wednesday, Aug. 23, at 9 p.m. (ET/PT).  The two-hour special will re-air on Saturday, Aug. 26, and Sunday, Aug. 27, at 7 p.m. (ET) with a replay at 10 p.m. (ET).   

“This is the kind of in-depth international reporting that CNN is uniquely positioned to offer,” said Jon Klein, president of CNN/U.S. “This documentary unearths the real story of the life of bin Laden and helps contextualize current events and the upcoming anniversary of 9/11. As we continue to simultaneously cover the events in Israel, Lebanon, Iraq, Cuba and around the globe, we remain committed to long-form programming that offers our audience a deeper look into the ongoing stories of this era. This latest special accomplishes that goal in a very timely, compelling way.”

 “CNN was the first network to interview Osama bin Laden in 1997,” said Mark Nelson, vice president and senior executive producer of CNN Productions. “And now this investigative report reveals new insights into the man who declared war upon the United States – and who still inspires a movement that affects world events almost daily.”

CNN Productions interviewed dozens of people on four continents for this biographical profile.  Of the numerous interviews conducted for this documentary, 21 are with people with first-hand knowledge of Osama bin Laden: childhood friends, university schoolmates, fellow jihadists, a former English teacher and journalists, such as CNN terrorism analyst Peter Bergen, who landed the first television interview with Osama bin Laden in March 1997. 

“Those who have prayed with him, lived with him, and fought for him…share the story of Osama bin Laden’s gradual but deadly transformation…from a quiet, religious boy…to the angry voice of holy war,” Amanpour reports.  

CNN reveals a gradual radicalization of a shy, pious boy, influenced as a young man by militant Islamic extremists, the revolution in Iran, the violent occupation and liberation of the Grand Mosque in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. 

Khalid Batarfi, a childhood friend of bin Laden’s says, “He was a shy boy.  He wouldn’t talk unless he needed to. He would listen more.”  Also according to Batarfi, while a young bin Laden seemed to enjoy some typical youthful indulgences, “we would watch cowboys, movies you know, karate movies…,” later, the increasingly pious young man would seem to be preparing himself for another life.  Batarfi and bin Laden parted ways as bin Laden not only began to reject indulgences such as entertainment, but even practiced survivalist skills by camping overnight in the harsh Saudi desert with minimal provisions. 

In the Footsteps of bin Laden is partially based upon Bergen ’s book, The Osama bin Laden I Know.  Bergen, who is featured in the CNN Presents documentary, is an author and fellow at the New America Foundation in Washington, D.C.

The managing editor for this production is Kathy Slobogin; Ken Shiffman is senior producer.  Cliff Hackel is director/producer/editor; Brian Larch is producer; Pierre Bairin was a field producer for this project; Peter Bergen is a co-producer. 

CNN Presents is the most honored documentary series in cable news.  So far in 2006, CNN Presents has been honored by six New York Festivals Awards, two National Headliner Awards and a National Press Club Robert L. Kozik Award for Environmental Reporting.

CNN Worldwide, a division of Turner Broadcasting System, Inc., a Time Warner Company, is one of the world’s most respected and trusted sources for news and information. Its reach extends to nine cable and satellite television networks; one private place-based network; two radio networks; wireless devices around the world; four Web sites, including CNN.com, the first major news and information Web site; CNN Pipeline, an on-demand broadband video service; CNN Newsource, the world’s most extensively syndicated news service; partnerships for four television networks and one Web site.

 


For Release: July 14, 2006

“Press Release for Television Critics Association”

Osama bin Laden – In the Words
of Those Who Know Him

CNN Announces Chilling Documentary Reported by
Chief International Correspondent Christiane Amanpour

CNN, the first television news organization to interview Osama bin Laden in 1997, will premier an ambitious documentary on the life and mission of the world’s most notorious terrorist, using firsthand accounts of the people who have known him best throughout his life. The two-hour investigation, reported by CNN chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour and based on The Osama bin Laden I Know by CNN terrorism analyst Peter Bergen, offers numerous new details about bin Laden’s transformation from a quiet, well-bred boy to the Western world’s most wanted terrorist. Jon Klein, president of CNN/U.S. announced at the Television Critics Association today that In the Footsteps of bin Laden will premiere on Wednesday, August 23 at 9p.m. The documentary will re-air on Saturday and Sunday, August 26 and 27 at 7p.m. with a replay at 10p.m. On Saturday and Sunday, September 9 and 10, the eve of the fifth anniversary of 9/11, the documentary will air at 7p.m. and 10 p.m., all times Eastern.

“This is the kind of sweeping project that CNN is uniquely suited to produce,” said Mr. Klein. “To uncover, for the first time on television, the real man lurking under layers of myth and misinformation requires a combination of world-class reporters, global resources, and complete commitment to covering the most important stories of our time.”

Filmed in 10 countries on four continents, In the Footsteps of bin Laden features 21 first-person accounts of bin Laden from his relatives, childhood friends, a former schoolteacher, co-jihadists, a bodyguard, even the wife of an al-Qaeda suicide bomber--many of them breaking their silence for the first time. “Each person that we interviewed knew bin Laden at some stage of his life and each has an incredible story to tell. We’ve obtained never-before-seen photographs, video…even the minutes of the meeting in which al-Qaeda was created,” said Mark Nelson, vice president and senior executive producer for CNN Productions.

In the Footsteps of bin Laden ties the evolution of bin Laden’s philosophy to the rise of Islamic fundamentalism from the late 1970s – through the unique personal perspective of Amanpour.

“The story of militant Islamic fundamentalism did not begin with September 11th,” she noted.

“My family and I lived through the Islamic Revolution that swept Iran in 1979 and forced the pro-American Shah from power. We witnessed the beginning of Islamic fundamentalist politics and the takeover of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran. Fundamentalist Islam had awoken as a movement in the Middle East, and the entire world is feeling its shockwaves today.”

“The events of 9/11 made Americans aware that events halfway across the world can hit us hard right here at home,” said Mr. Klein. “We are unique among American news networks in making international coverage central to our daily programming. We’re the only American television network that produces a daily newscast focused entirely on international news, and our prime time programming regularly features international coverage – not only daily accounts from the front lines of Iraq, but also detailed reports on the resurgence of the Taliban in Afghanistan, rape victims in Congo, refugee children in Uganda, earthquake survivors in Pakistan, and life inside the North Korean dictatorship. In the Footsteps of bin Laden exemplifies our mission: to bring context to domestic and global news,” Mr. Klein said.

In the Footsteps of bin Laden is partially based upon The Osama bin Laden I Know, by Peter Bergen, an author and a Fellow at the New America Foundation in Washington, DC. Mr. Bergen was a CNN producer at the time of the now famous interview with Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan in March 1997. Bergen, along with others, is featured in the CNN documentary and is credited as a co-producer.

CNN Presents: In the Footsteps of bin Laden is executive produced by Mark Nelson. The managing editor is Kathy Slobogin. Ken Shiffman is senior producer. Cliff Hackel is producer/editor; Brian Larch is producer; Pierre Bairin was a field producer on the project.

CNN Presents is the most honored documentary program in cable news. So far in 2006, CNN Presents has been honored by six New York Festivals Awards, two National Headliner Awards, and a National Press Club Robert L. Kozik Award for Environmental Reporting.

CNN Worldwide, a division of Turner Broadcasting System, Inc., a Time Warner Company, is one of the world’s most respected and trusted sources for news and information. Its reach extends to nine cable and satellite television networks; one private place-based network; two radio networks; wireless devices around the world; four Web sites, including CNN.com, the first major news and information Web site; CNN Pipeline, an on-demand broadband video service; CNN Newsource, the world’s most extensively syndicated news service; partnerships for four television networks and one Web site.

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