Do News Blackouts Really Help When Journalists Are Held Hostage?

An image grab from a YouTube video uploaded on December 18 allegedly shows NBC employees, from left to right, Aziz Akyavas, Richard Engel, and John Kooistra in captivity in Syria. (AFP/YouTube)

At any given time over the past two years, as wars raged in Libya and then Syria, and as other conflicts ground on in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, a number of journalists have been held captive by a diverse array of forces, from militants and rebels to criminals and paramilitaries. And at any given time, a small handful of these cases–sometimes one or two, sometimes more–have been purposely kept out of the news media. That is true today.

News organizations have invoked the captives’ safety in seeking media blackouts. But do the blackouts really benefit the individuals being held captive?

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