Despite a request by the family of the Scottish aid worker held hostage by ISIS terror beheader ‘Jihadi John’ to respect their privacy and not to name him, The Guardian, The Times and the Daily Mail newspapers have both decided to print extensive detail on the man today.
Although details were freely available online and widely published in foreign newspapers, these three British publications initially followed the guidance by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) to editors on reporting British citizens held abroad.
This reticence did not last long, however, as little over 24 hours after the hostage was shown on his knees in the ISIS propaganda video the Daily Mail published an emotional article entitled “Heartbreaking wish of British hostage’s teenage daughter reveals family’s anguish at kidnapping horror”. The article went into great detail about the hostage and his family, including a number of photographs taken from his daughter’s social media.
When Breitbart London spoke to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office this morning to get clarification about the situation, we were told the family’s plea for privacy had not been withdrawn and that these stories had been published against the advice of the FCO. The civil servant stressed that while the FCO could make requests of news editors not to publish on behalf of families or for operational reasons, they could not prevent the information being printed as adherence is voluntary.
Voluntary self-censorship is an unusual facet of the Western media’s response to the beheading of two American Journalists, and the threat of a coming execution for a British censorship. Application is patchy, and the unprecedented free market of news facilitated by the internet means interested parties can still largely find out details easily. The official British position is not to publicise UK national hostages held abroad, with the FCO making “polite requests” of media outlets not only in the UK by abroad as well.
Some have criticised this approach, saying that maintaining a media blackout on the names and details of hostages until the moment videos of their executions are released gives ISIS terrorists the “propaganda initiative”.
There is also a clear argument over the freedom of information, that UK citizens being held hostage by terrorist organisations is clearly in the public interest and pushing the matter of hostage taking to the back of the national consciousness is tantamount to ignoring the problem.
After an Emergency COBRA meeting yesterday, the Defence Secretary said “every possible option” is open when considering how to rescue the British ISIS hostage, including air-strikes.