In Making Malala Documentary, New York Times Journalist Struggles With Whether He Helped Make Her a Taliban Target

By Adam B. Ellick:

I met Malala in 2009, when she was determined to defy the odds and become a doctor. I spent six months, on and off, making two documentaries about her life that helped bring her brave campaign to the world, transforming her into a public figure. After the Taliban tried to silence her, dispatching an extremist who shot her in the head, The New York Times wove the footage together into a single, 32-minute documentary.

Since the shooting last October, I have at times struggled with an eternal question journalists confront: By giving Malala a platform to bring her message to the world, did I inadvertently play a role in her shooting, too? I wanted to understand how this all unfolded, so I began wading through nearly 20 hours of never-before-aired footage of the family in their homeland, long before they were coached by publicists, and before they had signed multi-million dollar book and movie deals.

While my original documentary tells the story of Malala' s struggle for education in the face of the Taliban, this back story also raises some sobering and difficult questions: Malala was a brave young girl, advocating for a better future for all girls in her country, but was this really her fight to take so public a stance in such a dangerous environment? Or was she thrust into the limelight by adults captivated by the power of a child staring down the Taliban?

Don't miss ABC's Diane Sawyer's exclusive interview with Malala Yousafzai on World News with Diane Sawyer at 6:30 p.m. ET and on 20/20's primetime special "Unbreakable," at 10 p.m. ET.

Adam B. Ellick is a video and print journalist for the New York Times. To see more of his first-person video, click here. Twitter is @aellick