Last weekend Telegraph journalists Colin Freeman and José Cendon were released by their Somali captors, after being held hostage near Bossasso, Puntland for six weeks, but until that date very little information was made public.

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) released information relating to the journalists' kidnap on November 26 2008 and Roy Greenslade subsequently blogged about it at

However, the names of the journalists were soon removed from the article and the Guardian blog post disappeared after the Telegraph, acting on advice from the UK Foreign Office, contacted other media outlets to request their co-operation for silence.

When contacted the Telegraph press office for more information in November, we were asked to help the journalists' situation by not publishing any of their details, a request with which we complied.

Two days prior to the pair's release, was told by the UK Foreign Office that the situation remained the same and information was not to be made public.

This has been the case for several kidnapped journalists, for example, the media withheld details relating to the abduction of CBC/Radio Canada reporter Melissa Fung in Afghanistan, who was freed in November 2008, and contrasts with the very public media appeal for BBC correspondent Alan Johnston's release, which dominated UK news for months after he was kidnapped in Gaza.

But in a (non-journalistic) case, one disillusioned family broke a 19 month silence by publicising their fears for their kidnapped relative, Peter Moore, in Iraq on Channel Four News in December 2008. Moore, along with four others, is still missing.

Is the silence beneficial and why use it in some cases and not others? Does it undermine a right to international press freedom? put these questions to Joel Simon, executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists.

"It's really a case by case basis. It's an extremely complicated question, because, on the one hand, journalists by profession are in the business of informing the public. It's clearly public interest (...) It's our instinct to report on it," says Simon.

But on the other hand, he adds, organisations like his own want to do everything they can to aid the victims' release.

"Can intensive media coverage make the situation more complicated? Absolutely," Simon says.

He outlines the potential dangers of media reportage: the ransom can be driven up, families can be put under additional pressure, and the kidnappers might react dangerously to certain media comments.

But, on the upside, in other circumstances, 'media can help apply political pressure, mobilise public support and sympathy', he adds.

"You just don't know what their demands are, so you're taking an educated guess," he says.

In the case of Alan Johnston, the media coverage clearly helped, but there were also specific negotiations with Hamas, he says.

In other cases, for example when dealing with a criminal group, such a campaign might not be the best strategy.

In the 'extraordinarily complicated' Freeman/Cendon case, the remote location of the kidnap added to the calls to restrict information about the journalists, says Simon. It might have been different if they were kidnapped in the capital Mogadishu rather than Puntland, he explains.

"We had some sense of what was going on in Puntland," he says. "We understood why the request was being made."

The CPJ is also more responsive to requests for silence from media, rather than government, he says.  

When it comes from the media outlet itself 'it's clearly voluntary' and there's 'nothing they can do if you don't comply,' he says.

"People in the profession understand why it [the request] is being made and they honour it."

"[We] generally comply when we get a request like this. We want to know why, but we wouldn't want to find ourselves doing anything to endanger the situation," he says. 

For the CPJ the agenda is clear: to protect the safety of the journalists wherever possible. But, if a media company keeps information quiet, it creates other complications: they could be accused of 'having a double standard' he says.

"Questions about this could damage the credibility of the media itself," he adds.

The policy of enforced media silence isn't new, says Simon, but is becoming more widespread. However, news outlets will still take their lead from agencies in these situations, he says.

"If Reuters and the AP are not publishing information, the rest of the media assumes they're doing this for a reason," Simon says.

"It's amazing that more information doesn't come out on the blogosphere," he adds.

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