CPJ welcomes U.S. government’s new hostage policy

New York, June 24, 2015–The Committee to Protect Journalists welcomes the new U.S. policy announced today which states that families of American hostages seeking to negotiate with or pay ransom to the abductors will not be threatened with criminal prosecution. The White House will also create an office to work with the families of the hostages, according to news reports. U.S. President Barack Obama ordered a review of the policy following the murders in 2014 of kidnapped U.S. freelance journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, news reports said.

“Journalists working in high-risk environments are particularly vulnerable to kidnapping, and so they have a direct stake in these discussions. For too long, American journalists have been doubly victimized–first by the kidnapping itself and then by the poorly coordinated U.S. response to the tragic incidents,” said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon. “This new hostage policy directive should lessen the anguish of the families and improve the likelihood of a successful outcome by providing a central point of contact, removing the threat of the prosecution for families that choose to pay ransom, and allowing U.S. government officials to communicate with hostage takers or their intermediaries.”

The families of some American hostages have said they have been threatened with criminal prosecution after they sought to pay ransom, according to news reports. Diane Foley–Foley’s mother–said her family had been threatened by U.S. officials when they tried to gather ransom to free the kidnapped journalist.

“Each kidnapping is different, so successful resolution depends on maintaining a flexible, pragmatic approach,” CPJ’s Simon said. “In that regard, the new policies are a clear step forward. However, everything will depend on the implementation.”