MOGADISHU, Somalia - Jan 6, 2012 Michael Scott Moore, an American surf journalist was kidnapped by pirates in Somalia. Today marks Moore’s one year in captivity. Although other countries have conducted raids to free hostages, the United States remains hesitant to engage in any rescue mission on the ground of Somalia. With more frequent abductions of American journalist in the Middle East and Northern Africa, reporter John Cook of ‘Gawker‘ has written reports on NBC journalist Robert Engel being kidnapped in Syria with mentions to Michael Scott Moore. There have been many censorship attempts that have got in the way of potentially rescuing Robert Engel including the point that Gawker reporter Adrian Chen raises in his report on another abducted American journalist, James Foley:
“A source I spoke to within the community of foreign journalists at the border of Turkey and Syria mentioned that Foley had been kidnapped weeks earlier. He was upset that the news of Foley’s kidnapping had been blacked out, reasoning that if it was public knowledge perhaps Engel and his team wouldn’t have risked venturing into the same area to be kidnapped themselves”
There is definitely a similarity in regards to media censorship of American journalist kidnapped abroad in both the Engel’s and Moore’s case. Journalists like Michael Scott Moore continue to be abducted in Somalia for over a year while his supposed employer Spiegel Media Company desperately tries to hide his kidnapping. An article by John Cook in Gawker started a thread of comments in the Vulture Club, a Facebook group focusing on war-zone journalism moderated by a Human Rights Watch staffer named Peter Bouckaert.
Cook says, “Bouckaert urged Vulture Club members to email him to take down the Engel post “Fifteen Ways of Looking at the Media Blackout of Richard Engel’s Abduction“. Many of these comments posted in his report came from staffers of big media companies, so it is their nature to support the blackout to keep there jobs. Amongst these journalists are Rajiv Chandrasekaran, senior correspondent and associate editor at the Washington Post and David Rohde, of the New York Times.
Cooks states in an article in Gawker, “There doesn’t seem to be an operating blackout surrounding Moores’ kidnapping”. Although, there were email campaigns to blackout the Moore story very similar to Bouckaerts’ sent to the surfing industry to which Michael Scott Moore has begun his career as a writer. Editor of Surfline, Marcus Sanders states he received an email that said, “We have been advised by the FBI and Germany’s Federal Bureau of Criminal investigation that any reporting on Moore that includes his name or biographical details will further endanger him, as it will provide additional strength to his hostage-takers. We are trying to keep the story out of the mainstream media to protect him”.
This started a frenzy amongst surf journalist trying to cover the story to be censored and hushed. Surfer Magazine, Surfing Magazine and The Surfer’s Journal all did not release content on Moore. Simply adhering to the emails they received to censor the story which are presumed fakes sent possibly by Moores’ supposed German employer Spiegel Media Company, a German media company which Moore was on assignment for at the time of capture. Moore also is presumed to have used his German passport when abducted in Somalia. An anonymous source tells ‘The Cardiff Kook’ that F.B.I. agents in the New York City office are currently investigating these suspicious e-mails sent out to Sanders and others. Currently ‘The Inertia’ was the only media website to publish content on Moore.
Another source: Le Seychellois Hebdo reported to the Seychelles News that most of Moore’s captivity was held with two fishermen Rolly Tambara and Mark Songoire both from Belvedere, Seychelles ages 69 and 62. The two men were kidnapped when there boat, ‘The Aride’ was hijacked November 2nd, 2011 some 65 miles west of Mahe in the Seychelles. Journalist Mohamed Ahmed and George Thande of ‘Reuters’ reported in a MSN News article that Tambara and Songoire were taken to the Somali port of Hobyo, a base for many pirates, before being moved inland to the central town of Adado, where they were held with Moore for just over a year until a two-million dollar ransom was paid by the Seychelles government on November 4th, 2012. According to the Seychelles News website The Seychelles Maritime and Safety Administration (SMSA) issued a warning a month prior to Tambara and Songoire being returned home on October 6th, 2012 Calling on all sailors and ﬁshermen to be on high alert and avoid operating in high-risk areas as the north-west monsoon season sets in bringing with it fresh threats of pirate attacks.
Robert Young Pelton of Somalia Report says, “Michael Scott Moore is still being held captive as an American hostage in central Somalia”. He believes the American government could rescue him if they wanted to already but for unknown reasons Moore has become less a priority”. Pelton says that, “Engel was released because his attackers were ambushed at a road block in an unrelated event that led to Engels and crew escaping or it could have been a rescue attempt stage managed to look like an ambush”.
According to the Gawker article written by John Cook, “There doesn’t seem to be an operating blackout on surrounding Moores’ kidnapping”. On the contrary a ‘Daily Press Briefing’ in Washington D.C. by US State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland on January 26th, 2012 mentions that, “A U.S. citizen was being held by Somali pirates”, but the report did not mention Moore’s name. But went on to say “We are concerned about this individual’s safety and well-being”. This goes to show that he is still held captive one year later and the American government knows about it.
Journalist, John Cook of ‘Gawker‘ wrote in his report that Pelton contacted him via e-mail in response to Peter Bouckaert’s call for an email blackout campaign in regards to Robert Engel’s abduction. Cook says that Pelton wrote ”Having been kidnapped and involved in dozens of corporate bungled kidnaps, I can say there is no evidence that keeping things quiet does anything than protect the corporate image and pocketbook.”
Pelton tells Cook “As publisher of Somalia Report, I tracked over 300 kidnap cases every week. As an author with two decades years of experience with groups that kidnap—and as a former hostage held by death squads in Colombia—I don’t like the idea of media self-censorship. Typically large organizations will attempt to strong-arm media outlets using the “for their security” line when an employee is kidnapped. There exists no proof that censorship helps expedite a safe release, and there is no proof that accurate information about a victim harms him. Inaccurate reporting about wealth, religion, political views and affiliations could influence a kidnap victim’s status, because they could be perceived as lying to their captors. But censorship historically has only covered up a host of corporate incompetence and handwringing.
Pelton shares with Cook that “When I was kidnapped in Colombia, I was working for National Geographic and Discovery TV. Both sent out press releases wondering what I was doing there, even though I had assignment letters and contracts with both. When I returned they sent a press person to exploit my successful release. Even though it had been accomplished by my friends and not by any effort on my employer’s part.”
Pelton explains to Cook that “Daniel Pearl, David Rohde, and Richard Engel are examples where their employers tried to keep the news of their kidnapping secret. In many cases, these blackouts are just a bald faced attempt to buy time mitigate bad publicity, reduce financial impact, and hide corporations’ incompetence in their ability to get their employees back. All the kidnappers have to do is use Google and Wikipedia…or ask the victim for information. In the case of Engel, modern social media is not restrained by formal demands for embargoes. The news was out.”
Pelton says “As for the blackout protecting corporate interests, it may be telling that Daniel Pearl was murdered despite my attempts to introduce a fellow jihadi to negotiate being rebuffed. Rohde says he simply escaped, but the blackout helped suppress news that his firm had hired the controversial ex-CIA officer and Iran-Contra figure Dewey Clarridge to try to rescue him. And Engel’s kidnap ended with an ambush from a local Islamic militia. There are horror stories from the wives and families of kidnap victims who are ignored, or when desperate for news of their loved ones are told that ‘it is being handled by professionals’ they rarely are”.
“It was over the objections of Engel’s employer NBC News, which had been trying to enforce a media blackout on Engel’s situation“, says Cook. In support of Cook, journalist Andrew Beaujon of Poynter wrote an article about why Gawker honored a blackout for James Foley but not Engel. Gawker reporter Adrian Chen says “Engel’s disappearance had already been widely reported in Turkish media and on Twitter when we reported it, rendering any ‘blackout’ pointless.”
There are not enough eyes and ears on the Moore case. I challenge you to write to the U.S. State Department, and the President of the United States and demand Moores’ rescue.
Article: Michael Drentea