, , ,

Surge of Journalist Kidnappings


Journalist kidnappings, an issue which has been associated with terrorism, has grown on a global scale. With a total of 720 kidnapped reporters being murdered in the past decade, examiners are trying to fully understand these incidents, while educating the public of its many complications.

In 1994, a debate emerged when an Associated Press writer, Tina Susman, had gone missing after she was snatched off reporting grounds by Somalian thugs. The journalist would later be held for ransom for a near-20 day count while being stored in a cramped room.

Controversially, in the wake of her disappearance, Susman’s story never broke the air until she was rescued, initiating concern from the public over “double standard[s]” and “injustice.”

Fellow peers from her reporting unit at the Associated Press addressed the public, saying that they, alongside other news reporting teams, did not want to report on the story as a means to prevent “periling” Susman’s life. However, political officials noted that sources like the Associated Press were being “peculiar” and “overcautious” and loosely implied that such reporting would not have fazed the Somalian terrorists due to the lack of media presence in the developing region.

Congressional officials further argued that if government officials were to keep the story quiet themselves, journalists like those from The Associated Press would be all over them.

Susman herself proclaimed that in the end, it was good that the media kept her story confidential, partly because media acknowledgment of the Somalian robbers would have made things more problematic for Susman’s survival, adding to the thugs’ arrogance.

Although Tina Susman’s case met a moderately relieving outcome, hundreds of other kidnapping cases have not seen a safe close, considering their involvement with terrorist-induced conflicts.

2002 would mark the year when journalist kidnappings became a global concern, as reporters became potential victims in treacherous power-fueled schemes used by terrorist groups to seek money and attention from the masses. Following the murder of reporter Daniel Pearl, several terrorist groups like Al-Qaeda have used homicide as the key component in seeking ransom negotiations and for “propaganda purposes” at a highly effective level; both elements were once controversially debated in the 1994 kidnapping case of Tina Susman.

In 2003, The New Yorker presented several points on the harrowing scenarios, highlighting that if bargains are offered to terrorist groups at a low rate, only amputations of the kidnapped are likely to be sent; with intricate negotiations set at an expensive price, many remain unsure the kidnapped will be returned safely in one piece.

Today, the stakes of ransom negotiations remain uncertain and have ignited a firestorm of controversy from the public, especially those bearing kidnapped loved ones who served in a range of posts from military personnel to communication officials.

The disappearance of Austin Tice, who has been missing since mid-August 2012, has raised many questions concerning congressional powers’ consideration in establishing a new U.S. policy that assures the return of hostages and enhances the informational exchange of loved one’s whereabouts between government agencies and families.

The case has since not seen positive news coverage. Recently, a report that confirmed that Tice was not being held captive by once-presumed Syrian powers, leaving his whereabouts unknown.

The episodes of journalist kidnapping have caused extreme pandemonium this past year. Notably, the global coverage of the terrorist group ISIS, murdering hostages in the most brutal fashion and capturing the footage on video-camera, only to be uploaded on the Internet for the public to see, has garnered much attention. This is the same strategy those in the discussion of the 1994 case of Tina Susman feared would propel terrorist pacts to conjure controversy in order to attain media attention.

Last year, it was reported by the advocacy group known as Reporters Without Borders that a total of 119 journalists were captured in 2014, with 66 murdered—a 35% increase compared to the previous year.

Jeff Varner

Sources: American Journalism Review, The New Yorker, CBS News, Poynter, McClatchy DC
Photo: The Atlantic