From Journalist to Hostage


My spouse and i traveled to Afghanistan in 2015 to film a documentary about america drone war. When my production spouse and I inquired about kidnapping insurance, we were told that it would cost more than $20,000 to go over the director of picture taking and me. We couldn’t afford such a high top quality and declined the present. We did, even so, take other precautions: caused a well-vetted and experienced native staff, dressed and traveled like Afghans, and stayed in secure and unmarked guesthouses. We also bought from Reporters Without Borders medical health insurance for high-risk countries that covers crisis evacuation and repatriation in the event of amputation or death.

We were aware of the risks when we traveled to Afghanistan. Everyone on my staff knew journalists who was simply kidnapped in different parts of the world. A number of them survived; others didn’t. The subject of this film, Michael Scott Moore, is probably the fortunate ones: He managed to get out alive after being held captive by Somali pirates for almost three years. (He’s publishing a book about his ordeal next calendar year.) A lot of the credit rating for Michael’s freedom would go to his mother, Marlis Saunders, who led the negotiations with the Somali kidnappers and gathered a substantial amount of cash from private sources and foundations to pay for her son’s ransom.

While it might appear unusual that a mother must deal directly with kidnappers to rescue her son, the United States’ reticence to negotiate on behalf of hostages causes the involvement of a captive’s family in the negotiations all but a requirement to secure safe launch. AMERICA and Britain have the strictest no-concession policy of all Western countries – and mainly comply with it. By contrast, continental European countries like Germany and France, without acknowledging obligations publicly, are recognized to have paid ransoms for his or her citizens, freeing them possibly from the clutches of terrorist organizations like Al Qaeda and the so-called Islamic Condition (and aiding fund those organizations’ bank accounts along the way).

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These divergent approaches appear to have a profound impact on the results of a hostage case. An insightful evaluation by the brand new America Basis titled “To Pay for Ransom or Not to Pay Ransom?” found that while a strict no-concession policy does not appear to lower the amount of kidnappings, not paying ransoms escalates the likelihood that hostages happen to be killed. Or to put it differently: An American or British hostage includes a much lower potential for survival when compared to a hostage from continental Europe. While Americans account for roughly one out of five Western hostages since 2001, they constitute one half of the hostages who were murdered by their captors. One of these was the journalist James Foley, whose mother, Diane Foley, provides criticized USA hostage policy for years as being inconsistent and unjust.

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Some persons will ask: Why if the government be responsible for paying ransoms for journalists who were kidnapped abroad? My question is: What is the alternative? To let people become murdered while conducting a job that plays a crucial purpose in democracy and education? Or should journalists not travel around into conflict zones and disaster areas, not go over America’s wars and interventions worldwide, not shine light on global problems like genocides and human being trafficking? We need to consider: How else do we get crucial, independent info from outside our convenience zones if not from journalists, both American and foreign?

Journalism is an inherently risky occupation, and as news corporations close costly foreign bureaus, our bounty of foreign reports reporting shifts to freelancers, who often set out into dangerous settings unsupported and without proper training. (Major news organizations, just like the Times, traditionally send out their reporters with support that freelance journalists lack.) War reporters are well aware of the dangers they encounter covering conflicts, and they make threat assessments and properly consider worst-case scenarios. In addition they have responsibility for the consequences their decisions have for his or her families and other persons involved with rescuing them.

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