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The kidnapping of journalists

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Robert G. Picard and Hannah Storm

The vulnerability of journalists to kidnappings was starkly illustrated by the killing of James Foley and Steven Sotloff by Islamic militants in 2014. Their murder underscored the risks taken by journalists and news organisations trying to cover developments in dangerous regions of the world and has forced news enterprises to more clearly prepare for and confront issues of safety. This book explores the complex organisational issues surrounding the capture or kidnapping of journalists in areas of conflict and risk. It explores how journalists ‘becoming news’ is covered and the implications of that coverage, how news organisations prepare for and respond to such events, and how kidnapping and ransom insurers, victim recovery firms, journalists’ families, and governments influence the actions of news enterprises. It considers how and why journalists are kidnapped, how employers and journalists’ organisations respond to kidnappings and why freelancers are particularly at risk as well as suggesting best practices for preventing and responding to kidnappings.

Download the executive summary and first chapter

Author bios: Robert G. Picard is Director of Research at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism in the Department of Politics and International Relations at University of Oxford, a research fellow at Green Templeton College (Oxford) and a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.Hannah Storm is Director of the International News Safety Institute, which advises journalists on how to assess the risks they face, shares information affecting the safety of news teams on the ground and organises safety training projects for journalists around the world. She is the author of No Woman’s Land – On the Frontlines with Female Reporters, which explores the unique safety issue of women who work in the media.

‘Chilling, practical and timely – this is the most comprehensive and useful account to date of every journalist’s worst nightmare.’
Christina Lamb OBE, Foreign Correspondent, Sunday Times

‘Journalists are no longer just reporting from dangerous front lines, they are the front line for kidnappers – this is essential reading for anyone who works with this worst of risks.’
Lyse Doucet OBE, Chief International Correspondent, BBC

Journalists are increasingly vulnerable to kidnap, but it is possible to mitigate the risk. 

Photo published for Kidnapping Journalists: News Organisations Are Unprepared - European Journalism Observatory - EJO

Kidnapping Journalists: News Organisations Are Unprepared – European Journalism Observatory – EJO

More than 100 journalists have been kidnapped in Syria since 2011, yet despite evidence that they are being targetted, few are prepared for the threat.


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