In a recently released December 11th letter, 13 international news organizations called for Syrian rebels to halt the kidnapping of their journalists. The letter pleads, “Over the past 12 months, we have witnessed the disturbing rise in the kidnapping of journalists while on assignment within the northern provinces of Aleppo, Idlib and al-Raqqa as well as elsewhere in Syria. By our estimate, more than thirty journalists are now being held. As a result of these kidnappings, a growing number of news organizations no longer feel that it is safe for their reporters and photographers to enter Syria, and many have decided to limit their coverage of the war, unwilling to have their staff members subjected to the increasingly common risk of abduction.”
The letter points out the crucial role these journalists play in the Syrian conflict; allowing the world to know what is going on in the country. The organizations also request help from the leadership of these groups in identifying and freeing the estimated thirty journalists currently being held in Syria.
While it is uncertain if this letter will bring about any real change in the risks facing journalists covering the Syrian conflict, the letter marks a highly publicized effort not between two governments, but between a group of well-respected news organizations attempting to negotiate with rebel leaders. It is highly likely that the only way this letter will have any true effect is if these leaders value the role of the journalists’ work. I hypothesize that we will see little, if any, change stemming from this letter, as publicity of the Syrian conflict would likely draw negative attention to these leaders (as it already has), rather then helping their cause.
Only time will tell if this letter has any true impact. It is, however, an interesting model for a new mode of diplomacy between businesses and foreign rebel groups. The journalists are essentially pleading with the rebels to understand their value and worth in the conflict, and threatening to limit the attention drawn to their cause if they do not comply with their simple requests. If it is effective, it could be a simple and straightforward tactic that could aid efforts in future conflicts.