- Alan Johnston at the IPI World Congress in Helsinki
Jotman live-blogged the International Press Institute World Congress in Helsinki. One of the panel discussions concerned "How to interview terrorists and survive kidnapping." Three journalists talked about how they survived getting kidnapped by a terror group. They shared their advice for other journalists who might find themselves in similar circumstances.
One of those journalists was Alan Johnston (BBC bio, Wiki, Amazon) who is a correspondent for the BBC World Service. Here are Jotman's jots of Alan Johnston's responses to some questions:
Question: Hopefully it won't happen to anyone in this room. But do you have any advice for other journalists, should they get captured?Jotman's entire live-blog of the panel discussion includes commentary by Peter Bergen who is a print and television journalist, author, and terrorism analyst for CNN; Giuliana Sgrena, a journalist with Il Manifesto; and moderator Hamid Mir who is executive editor of Geo TV, Islamabad.
Alan Johnston: I had a radio. I heard Terry Waite interviewed. Terry Waite said to remember "mind and body are extraordinaire things and you will find more strength than you might have expected." Ingrid Betancourt endured a much longer time in captivity. So of course did Primo Levi. People endure extraordinary things. First thing: you worry might lose your mind. But you have more strength than you might imagine in a crisis. You shouldn't despair.
Question from an Indian journalist: Did captivity change your understanding about the group. Did you wonder if Stockholm Syndrome would impact you? Did it?
Alan Johnston: Having been there -- in Gaza -- for 3 years prior to capture, I absolutely condemned what was happening. I will say I was lucky I wasn't tortured. I am lucky I wasn't subjected to anything like Abu Ghraib. I will always be grateful for that. While I was in captivity, listening to the radio they gave me, I heard on the BBC a report about a British soldier (Cpl Donald Payne) who was found to have tortured an Iraqi receptionist (Baha Mousa). That sounded far worse than anything that was happening to me.
Nigerian asks question: Do you think your kidnappers did not know what they wanted?
Alan Johnston: Clearly they wanted prisoners released. But the mad politics of Gaza swung in my favor: Hamas won control of Gaza over Fata. So Hamas wasn't going to have a small jihad group operating on its turf. So they took over the situation. Events turned in my favor.