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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. Following the INSI session "Journalism held hostage" at News Xchange in Berlin last October, it became clear that few news organisations knew what do do if a kidnapping happened or had any contingency plans in place.
INSI offered then to set up a service to bridge the knowledge gap.
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.
The group of experts
Rory Peck Trust
Dart Centre for Journalism and Trauma
Alan Johnston - BBC
Alan was held hostage in Gaza for 114 days in 2007
Anita McNaught - freelance journalist/producer
Anita was involved in the release of her cameraman husband Olaf Wiig, who was held in Gaza for 13 days in 2006
Tina was held captive for 20 days in Somalia in 1994
Scott Peterson - Christian Science Monitor
Scott is well-versed in Iraqi kidnapping scenarios and supervised the Jill carroll kidnapping for the Monitor
Eason Jordan - Praedict
Eason was a former CNN News executive and runs today the world's premier Iraq-focused website, Iraqslogger.
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 London. INSI will 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, CBC, 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.
INSI has set up a group of experts participating in the Global Hostage Crisis Group.
INSI monitors kidnappings, abductions and near misses incidents involving journalists and media staff as one of the activity of the Global Hostage Crisis Group.
INSI does the same for all kidnappings as well involving particularly humanitarian workers.