Saturday, June 20, 2009

Daniel Pearl With a Happy Ending

The escape of a New York Times reporter from seven months of captivity in Pakistan recalls the shock of Daniel Pearl's beheading there seven years ago and prompts second thoughts about the uses of secrecy in a tell-all media age.

Unlike Pearl's captors, the kidnappers of David Rohde did not release videos of their work, and his family and employers chose to maintain secrecy in trying to arrange his release.

“From the early days of this ordeal," says Bill Keller, executive editor of the Times, "the prevailing view among David’s family, experts in kidnapping cases, officials of several government and others we consulted was that going public could increase the danger to David and the other hostages. The kidnappers initially said as much. We decided to respect that advice.”

Other news organizations went along, and after climbing over a wall with an Afghani reporter who had been captured with him, Rohde is on his way back to his family, a rare happy ending in a time when political murder is a public act, and journalists are both the targets and, unwillingly or not, accomplices in the spectacle.

Add that as a postscript to the debate on "the public's right to know" everything in the Age of Transparency.

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