A Thoughtful, Analytical Approach to NGO Security

How Many Kidnapped Aid Workers?

Sometimes the mainstream media really makes my blood boil. You may recall that on 21 May three aid workers were kidnapped by gunmen in Somalia. The headlines that came in on my news feeds were maddening.

First off the mark was DawnNews via Twitter with the headline "Two Italians among three aid workers kidnapped in Somalia." OK, so we have two Italians and somebody else. Maybe they just don't know his nationality yet.

"Two Italians kidnapped in Somalia" - PRESS TV Hmmm... what about the other guy?
"Italian aid workers kidnapped in Somalia" - Independent Online
"Somali gunmen kidnap two Italian aid workers" - Reuters South Africa OK... so maybe its just two Italians?
"Officials say gunmen kidnapped aid workers" - Reuters Or maybe the other person wasn't an aid worker?
"Somali gunmen kidnap two Italian aid workers: officials" - Reuters
"Somali gunmen kidnap two Italian aid workers: officials" - Washington Post
"Witness: Somali gunmen seize 2 Italian aid workers" - The Associated Press Just two Italians I guess.
"Somali gunmen kidnap two Italian aid workers-officials" - AlertNet Newsdesk
"Witness, diplomat: Somali gunmen seize 2 Italians" - The Associated Press
"Somalia: Two Italian aid workers kidnapped" - آكي adnkronos
"Somali official: Gunmen seize 3 aid workers" - The Associated Press Five hours after the DawnNews report the AP editor realizes that it was three aid workers.
"Somali official: Abduction of 3 aid workers, including 2 Italians ..." - PR-Inside.com (Pressemitteilung)
"Somali official: Gunmen seize 3 aid workers" - The Associated Press
"Somali official: Gunmen seize 3 aid workers" - Adal Voice of Eritreans
"Somali official: Abduction of 3 aid workers, including 2 Italians" - Adal Voice of Eritreans
"Gunmen Seize 2 Italians, One Somali Aid Worker In Somalia" AHN via Hiiraan Online. And finally Hiiraan Online points out that there is such a thing as a Somali aid worker.

Of the seventeen headlines that crossed my virtual desk more than half would have had me believe that only two aid workers were kidnapped. Seven of seventeen acknowledged that in fact three aid workers were kidnapped. Only one clearly identified the nationality of the Somali aid worker.

With headlines like these it is no wonder that so many national staff in INGOs feel like the second class citizens of the aid world.

Are aid groups doing too much newsgathering?

The frontline club introduces "The News Carers: aid groups doing too much newsgathering?", with the following:

Are the media relying too much on aid groups and NGOs to provide pictures and video of the world's forgotten crises? Or does it make no difference where we source our material? Does the public even know the difference?

These are interesting questions but I'd rather switch it around a little. Do NGO's rely too much on mainstream media to get the word out about forgotten crises? How do governments, non-state armed actors, and others view our relationship with the media? How do these perceptions affect NGO security? How do they affect our ability to access those in need?

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