Should We Negotiate With Hostage Takers?

March 28th, 2019

Screen%2BShot%2B2019-03-28%2Bat%2B8.48.4In a world that is increasingly more authoritarian, in a political atmosphere that is more and more polarized and tribal everywhere, the threat of global hostage-taking has increased exponentially.

As the murder of Jamal Khashoggi illustrates, this threat has particularly increased for journalists, many of whom are on the front lines of reporting on repression and brutality. A record 262 journalists were jailed around the world at the end of 2018.

All of this raises the far larger question, one that journalists have to think about every day, of how should we deal, as a matter of public policy, with journalists or anyone other citizen that is taken, hostage.

The American policy has been that "we do not negotiate with hostage takers."  This policy is not universal. Many nations, including France, Spain, and others have taken a different view. The answer is not clear cut or obvious. What is clear is that sometimes playing mister tough guy is just plains stupid.

Joel Simon, a long time journalists in California and Latin America, is the Executive Director of the Committee to Protect Journalist.  His new work is We Want to Negotiate: The Secret World of Kidnapping, Hostages and Ransom.

My conversation with Joel Simon:

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