7. Decision-making point

The decision point is that critical moment in a newsroom when editors are forced to carefully weigh the ethical considerations around publishing a story. In abduction cases, this thought process has to happen quickly, given the speed at which information can now travel. Paul Hunter describes how, in Mellissa Fung’s case, the decision to remain […]

6. “Protecting our own”

Do journalists kidnapped abroad receive different international treatment than tourists or even politicians? If so, should they? Robert Fowler believes that journalists get preferential treatment, and feels that this is wrong. Reflecting back on the events leading up to his abduction, Fowler recounted a prophetic conversation he had with a prominent Canadian reporter. A few […]

5. Mellisa Fung: Afghan abduction

CBC journalist Mellissa Fung was abducted in Kabul, Afghanistan on October 12, 2008, almost two months before Robert Fowler. But the Canadian public wouldn’t hear a whisper of her ordeal until her release. Information surrounding Fung’s disappearance was subjected to a full and complete international media blackout. Fung was stationed at the NATO military base in Kandahar […]

4. Robert Fowler: catch and release

On December 14, 2008, Robert Fowler’s life took a terrifying turn. The long-serving Canadian diplomat and then-United Nations special envoy to Niger was traveling through the African country when he and his aide were taken hostage. Fowler had arrived in Niger with fellow Canadian diplomat Louis Guay just a few days earlier. They were there […]

3. Blackouts: a brief history

Media blackouts have historically been used by governments to control the flow of information and buttress their power. In times of conflict, countries have strategically released or concealed information to advance a particular agenda. Early 20th century examples of such blackouts include the Western media’s censorship of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Vietnam […]

2. Policies on blackout requests

In Canada, there is no blanket policy for dealing with blackout requests in hostage takings. It is up to each individual news outlet to decide whether or not to honour a news embargo. For the most part, blackouts are assessed on a case-by-case basis. The Canadian Press Stylebook offers writers and editors a broad guideline for covering […]

The ethics of media blackouts: two kidnappings

Case study by Brigitte Noël, Shannon Busta, Robert Parker and Paige Ellis December, 2012  Introduction In December 2008, Robert Fowler, a Canadian diplomat, and his aide were abducted while on a United Nations mission in West Africa. Their case was not an isolated incident. CBC reporter Mellissa Fung was kidnapped while on assignment in Afghanistan […]