A new paper by Paul Wood, Joan Shorenstein Fellow (fall 2015) and BBC world affairs correspondent, tells the harrowing story of a kidnapping by ISIS, and examines the ethical dilemmas that arise when reporting on terrorist organizations.
Between November 2012 and the summer of 2014, some 24 Western journalists and aid workers were kidnapped and held hostage by ISIS. Wood chronicles the ordeal of one ISIS captive in chilling detail, and along the way, recounts moments during his own reporting in Syria that raise important questions about how journalists report on such conflicts. After witnessing the brutal death of a child, what should be the goal of journalism – to relay an impartial account, or to move the world to act? What footage is appropriate to broadcast in the wake of an attack? When must secrets be kept to preserve the lives of those still held hostage? What is the balance between sanitizing the atrocities of war – and showing graphic details that may encourage others to join ISIS?