Brussels, 15 January - The International News Safety Institute has set up a global hostage crisis help centre 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 organisations and individual journalists confronted for the first time by a staff member or colleague being kidnapped and held hostage.
The centre can draw from a wealth of experience of such incidents offered by INSI members, including prominent news organisations and individuals.
"More journalists than ever are being kidnapped, drawing more news organisations 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 appropriate security experts and/or news organisations 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 organisation, security expert or individual journalist as appropriate and put the parties in touch with one another.
Areas of help can range from guidance on managing security issues to advice on how the victim may be responding to the situation to guidance on the care of families, friends and colleagues. All advice given will be strictly confidential.
INSI is supported in this endeavour by the BBC, CNN, NBC, AP Television, Al Jazeera, TV Globo in Brazil, security companies AKE, Security Exchange and Praedict, journalist support organisations The Rory Peck Trust, which looks after the interests of freelancers, and the Dart Centre for Journalism and Trauma as well as individual journalists who have been through the nightmare experience themselves.
They include 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.
INSI can also call on the help of many other members around the world if needed.
The impetus for the service arose from the INSI session "Journalism held hostage" at News Xchange in Berlin last October when it became clear that few news organisations knew what do do if an incident happened or had any contingency plans in place.
INSI offered to set up this service to bridge the knowledge gap. The contact network is backed by a set of kidnap-hostage guidelines and other informational material and can be located on the INSI website www.newssafety.com
The risk of kidnapping has become increasingly serious for news media staff around the world. At least 72 were kidnapped in 2007 and 16 of them were murdered.
INSI has a successful track record of practical help for news organisations in difficulties. A non-profit NGO set up to assist news media staff in dangerous situations, it has advised several news organisations facing hostage situations and has provided free safety training to 806 journalists and media staff in 16 countries.
To consult the Hostages Guidelines Click here
Any questions about this news release should be addressed to Rodney Pinder email firstname.lastname@example.org, mob/cell +44 7734 709267 or Sarah de Jong email email@example.com tel +32 22 23 52 201