Dart to Support New Hostage Help Center
With the support of the Dart Center for Journalism & Trauma, the International News Safety Institute (INSI) has set up a global hostage crisis help center for journalists and other news professionals kidnapped as a result of their work.
With the support of the Dart Center for Journalism & Trauma, the International News Safety Institute (INSI) has set up a global hostage crisis help center for journalists and other news professionals kidnapped as a result of their work. The service is offered as an initial point of contact and free advice for news organizations and individual journalists confronted for the first time by a staff member or colleague being kidnapped and held hostage.
Support for this endeavor comes from the Dart Center along with the BBC, CNN, NBC, AP Television, Al Jazeera, TV Globo in Brazil, security companies AKE, Security Exchange and Praedict, and The Rory Peck Trust, which looks after the interests of freelancers. Support also comes from individual journalists who have been through the nightmare experience themselves, including Alan Johnston of the BBC, who was held hostage in Gaza for 114 days last year; Anita McNaught, a freelance journalist and television producer and her cameraman husband Olaf Wiig, who was held in Gaza for 13 days in 2006; Tina Susman, who was held captive for 20 days in Somalia in 1994; Scott Peterson of the Christian Science Monitor, who is well-versed in Iraqi kidnapping scenarios; and Eason Jordan, former CNN news executive who founded Praedict and runs the world's premier Iraq-focused website, Iraqslogger.
The impetus for the service arose from the INSI session "Journalism held hostage" at News Xchange in Berlin last October, where it became clear that, while the risk of kidnapping has become increasingly serious for news media staff around the world, few news organizations knew what to do if an incident happened or had any contingency plans in place. At least 72 were kidnapped in 2007 and 16 of them were murdered. "More journalists than ever are being kidnapped, drawing more news organizations and families into nightmare scenarios," said INSI Director Rodney Pinder. "This service, backed by people who have been there, will provide some basic advice and guidance on what best to do."
The service will not attempt to resolve a specific hostage situation or act as an intermediary in negotiations. It will act as an informal help line, putting those who need advice and guidance in touch with security experts, news organizations and individuals who have been through the experience themselves.
When an incident happens, those in need are invited to call the nearest INSI regional coordinator or the INSI Head Office in Brussels. INSI would then contact a news organization, security expert or individual journalist as appropriate and put the parties in touch with one another. The contact network is backed by a set of kidnap-hostage guidelines and other informational material and can be located on the INSI website.
Areas of help can range from guidance on managing security issues to confidential advice on how the victim may be responding to the situation to guidance on the care of families, friends and colleagues.
INSI has a successful track record of practical help for news organizations. A non-profit NGO set up to assist news media staff in dangerous situations, it has advised several news organizations facing hostage situations and has provided free safety training to 806 journalists and media staff in 16 countries.