US allows families to pay hostage ransoms

(By Deutsche Welle) Under pressure from relatives of slain Americans, the US has permitted families to pay hostage ransoms. But experts say that as long as European governments pay large ransoms, the kidnapping epidemic will continue.

Could James Foley, Steven Sotloff, Warren Weinstein, Abdul-Rahman Kassig and Kayla Mueller have been saved?

The United States has long maintained a policy of not negotiating with terrorists. Sort of. In the case of Weinstein, the FBI advised his family on how to make a ransom payment of $250,000 to his al Qaeda-affiliated captors, according to The New York Times.

“Helping with a ransom…is not tantamount to paying a ransom,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said at the time.

The American contractor was ultimately killed by a US airstrike targeting militants on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. An Italian aid worker was also inadvertently killed.

The Foley family, on the other hand, claims they were threatened with prosecution by the State Department if they tried to pay a ransom for their son’s release.

Though the United States staged a military operation to rescue Foley, the 40-year-old freelance journalist wasn’t at the location of the raid. Weeks later, he was beheaded by the Islamic State in a gruesome video, the first of many.

“The families don’t feel supported; they don’t feel like they’re given the information they need, and that’s clearly become a political issue for the Obama administration,” Joel Simon, executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists, told DW.

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Calls for ‘IS’ media blackout after reported execution of US journalist

(By Deutsche Welle) US freelance journalist James Foley has reportedly been executed by “Islamist State” (IS) militants. In response, a Twitter campaign has been started to stop the spread of violent postings by the IS.

In a video originally posted on YouTube called “A Message to America,” militants claiming to represent the “Islamic State” (IS) appeared to execute a man identified as James Foley, supposedly in retaliation for Washington launching a campaign of airstrikes against the radical group in northern Iraq.

They then threaten to take the life of a man identified in the video as Steven Joe Sotloff, an American who has freelanced for Time Magazine, if US President Barack Obama doesn’t end the airstrikes in Iraq. The US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is investigating the authenticity of the video, which was removed from social media sites on Tuesday.

Shortly after the video went online, a social media campaign called #ISISMediaBlackout was started on Twitter, aiming to stop the footage and other violent videos from being shared. ISIS refers to the radical Sunni group’s previous name, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

So far, the Twitter campaign has been shared more than 7,000 times since Tuesday. Twitter user @LibyaLiberty kicked off the campaign.

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‘IS’ is ‘the greatest threat to journalists’

(By Deutsche Welle) Syria is the most dangerous country for journalists, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. Middle East program coordinator Sherif Mansour estimates about 20 foreign reporters are being held hostage.

DW: How much do we know about the journalists who have been abducted in Syria?

Sherif Mansour: We have reported on many of those cases. We actually believe that as many as 80 and more were kidnapped since the civil war started. That includes 65 who were kidnapped last year alone – that’s more than one journalist every week. And we at the time said this is an unprecedented number.

We are trying to keep track, but it’s very difficult, because some of these cases go unreported, and in other cases it’s the family or the media organization that employs the journalist who ask that there will be a blackout on the case. That’s why we couldn’t reveal a lot of information.

We also know that a lot of foreign journalists have been kidnapped. We estimate that currently 20 foreign journalists are [being held].

Who is targeting these journalists?

At the beginning, the [Syrian] regime was doing all these violations against journalists. It wasn’t until 2012 that we saw the opposition then, or IS [the “Islamic State”] – which was ISIS back then – starting those violations. By the end of 2012, ISIS became the greatest threat to journalists – they’ve killed journalists, they’ve kidnapped more journalists than anyone else. And they were very brutal about it. They’ve also targeted foreign journalists to serve as leverage in negotiations with other parties, including foreign governments.

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