Jeremy Scahill on Richard Engel, News Blackouts, and Kidnapped Journalists Still Held Hostage
As a result of the Richard Engel incident, I’ve been witnessing a lot of debate over the question of whether to cover the kidnapping of journalists, but it’s hard to imagine a statement that could top this piece by the Christian Science Monitor‘s Jeremy Scahill.
Here’s a taste:
Attempting to maintain a news blackout after an abduction has long been a common practice, both for journalists and other people working in war zones. The idea is generally that a frenzy of questions and attention can make a quick negotiation for release tougher, either by spooking captors, or by raising their perception of the financial or propaganda value of their captive.
In some cases too much silence can be dangerous. If kidnappers know they’ve got someone high profile, like Engel, and then there’s no news, they can get to wondering if their captive is actually a spy working under journalist cover. In others, obviously, publicity can be very dangerous. Every situation has its different particulars. In this instance it appears that people working with the situation on the ground were seeking to buy time for rebels to find the group before they were moved to a part of Syria under government control.
And while Engel did end up being freed, there are other journalists still being held captive in Syria:
For now, this story has a happy ending for Kooistra, Balkiz, and Engel. But it’s a partial one. Austin Tice, an American freelancer, has been missing and presumed captive in Syria since August. There are others who are missing whose cases have been kept more quiet. And the bloody Syrian civil war, with tens of thousands of civilian Syrians dead already, has also been rough on journalists. In a report out today, the Committee to Protect Journalists says 23 journalists were killed in combat situations this year, the highest number since 1992. Syria, and the proliferation of citizen journalists there, were responsible for that number.