American University & Pulitzer Center Host Discussions on Freelance Safety

The Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting and American University recently teamed up to sponsor two panel discussions on the dangers facing freelance journalists working in hostile environments worldwide—an issue of growing concern at a time of heightened attacks against journalists and diminished resources at many leading news organizations.

The first panel, moderated by Bill Gentile of American University, featured three freelance journalists who have received support from the Pulitzer Center: Jason Motlagh, Allison Shelley and Michael Scott Moore, who spoke publicly for the first time following 32 months in captivity in Somalia.

"After a few months...after a certain point, a hostage just doesn't care," said Scott Moore, of his frustrations during the hostage negotiation process. "The risk of a rescue mission doesn't matter anymore."

Scott Moore's situation was more complicated, he says, because as a German-American citizen, both countries were involved in negotiations for his release.

The second panel, moderated by Pulitzer Center Executive Director Jon Sawyer, focused on the responsibilities of news organizations who rely on freelancers and their work. It featured Hannah Allam of McClatchy Newspapers; Frank Smyth, a security adviser for the Committee to Protect Journalists; and David Rhode of Thompson Reuters, who in 2008 was held captive for seven months by the Taliban in Afghanistan.

For the past several months, Rhode has organized discussions on freelancer safety, and helped draft freelance protection standards which have been endorsed by 60 organizations worldwide.

Click here to read edited transcripts from both panel discussions.