When journalists are captured

By Christopher B. Daly

I am delighted that Richard Engel is safe after being captured and held in Syria. The NBC correspondent has been risking his neck for years in some of the most godforsaken places on earth, just so the rest of can debate what (if anything) we should “do” about those countries.

Here is his appearance (by video) on his network’s ailing “Today” show. (Btw, I still miss Ann Curry.)

Here is the story from today’s Times, which raises the issue of what (if anything) should be reported about missing journalists while they are in captivity. Here’s the takeaway:

NBC’s television competitors and many other major news organizations, including The New York Times, refrained from reporting on the situation, in part out of concern about endangering the crew even more.

In 2008, news outlets similarly refrained from publishing reports about the kidnapping in Afghanistan of David Rohde of The New York Times and a local reporter, Tahir Ludin. The two escaped in June 2009 after seven months in captivity.

In the case of Mr. Engel, Gawker and a number of other Web sites reported speculation about his disappearance on Monday. After he and his crew members returned safely to Turkey, Peter N. Bouckaert, the emergencies director of Human Rights Watch who has been involved in efforts to free captives, criticized the decisions made by those sites. News blackouts, he said, go “against the journalistic instinct to report the news, but in many of these cases it does save lives.”



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