Why We Shouldn't Pay Ransom for Journalists

It would boost the risk for others: Thomas E. Ricks
By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 25, 2014 12:08 PM CDT
Why We Shouldn't Pay Ransom for Journalists
A woman holds a candle during a vigil for James Foley in his hometown of Rochester, NH, Saturday, Aug. 23, 2014.   (AP Photo/Jim Cole)

Word is that a multimillion-dollar ransom might have saved James Foley, but the US doesn't fulfill such demands—and it's right not to, writes a journalist who's seen dangerous reporting firsthand. While it's a tragedy that last year, almost 50 journalists were reported killed in the Middle East, paying for their return would "increase the risk of other … citizens being taken," Thomas E. Ricks writes at Politico. What's more, that money can "provide millions of dollars in financing for the most brutal terrorist groups, making them stronger and helping them grow."

One result is a "market for hostages," which encourages gangs to "grab Westerners and then sell them to the highest bidder," Ricks notes. He recalls his own encounters with the threat of kidnapping in Baghdad. A US official told him: "This is the most dangerous city in the world, Westerners are the most likely to be targeted, and you journalists are the most vulnerable Westerners." Ricks knew colleagues who'd been attacked, and he was issued a card full of numbers to call if he needed political support in such an event. But "I believed then—and still do—that my best protection was the American policy against ransom," he notes. "If insurgents, extremists, and criminals knew that kidnapping American reporters is not lucrative, that reduces the incentive to grab one." Click for his full piece. (More journalists stories.)

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