A global hostage crisis service backed by the BBC, CNN and Al Jazeera has been set up to help journalists in kidnap situations.
The International News Safety Institute (INSI) has set up the service as a point of contact, offering advice for news organizations and individual journalists confronted for the first time by a staff member or colleague held hostage.
The service, which was first mooted at a hostage themed session at last year’s News Xchange conference in Berlin will draw from the experience of kidnap victims like the BBC’s Alan Johnson, who was held hostage in Gaza for 114 days last year and Fox News cameraman Olaf Wiig, who was held in Gaza for 13 days in 2006. Wiig’s wife, freelance journalist and producer Anita McNaught is also part of the team behind the project.
Others who INSI will call upon for their expertise in the field include Tina Susman, who was held captive for 20 days in Somalia in 1994; Scott Peterson of the Christian Science Monitor; and Eason Jordan, former CNN news executive who founded Praedict and runs the Iraq-focused website, Iraqslogger.com.
It is also backed by the BBC, CNN, NBC, AP Television, Al Jazeera, TV Globo in Brazil; security companies AKE, Security Exchange and Praedict; and journalist support organizations like The Rory Peck Trust and the Dart Centre for Journalism and Trauma.
The service will act as an informal help line, putting those who need guidance with experts and those news organisations and individual journalists who have been through a similar hostage crisis. It will not attempt to resolve a specific hostage situation or act as an intermediary in negotiations.
“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.”