FOX NEWS REPORTER KIDNAPPING & THE MANIPULATION OF THE MEDIA
1. On August 14, 2006 two foreign journalists were kidnapped in the Gaza Strip. The journalists, Steve Centanni and Olaf Wiig (Agencies, 2006), were kidnapped by a previously unknown terrorist group that called themselves the Holy Jihad Brigades (Toameh, 2006). This background paper will discuss the kidnappers, the covering of the kidnapping by various media outlets, possible reasons for the kidnapping and the release of the victims.
2. A previously unknown group calling itself Holy Jihad Brigades last week claimed responsibility for the abduction and demanded that the US release all Muslim prisoners held in American jails within three days. The kidnappers belonged to one of the local militias in the Gaza Strip that used the name Holy Jihad Brigades as a cover. "Usually, the kidnappers announce very quickly who they are and what they want. That was not true this time," said Gef Julliard, an editor at Reporters Without Borders, an organization to promote press freedom, speaking from Paris. "They may be emulating the groups in Iraq. We are worried this is a global trend." (Struck, 2006) The statement itself bore none of the hallmarks of past Palestinian demands. It did not seek the release of Palestinian prisoners, and the demands were aimed at the United States rather than at Israel. The rhetoric sought to portray the kidnapping as an act in a wider war between Islam and the United States. Additionally In a statement attached to a video of the kidnapped victims on August 24th, a group calling itself the Holy Jihad Brigades railed against the U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and characterized them as a war against Islam. It made no demands of Israel. (Press, Militant group says it kidnapped Fox journalists, 2006)
Finally, the journalists were forced to convert to Islam at gunpoint in a second video that was released before they were freed from their captors. (Fendel, 2006)
Gaza's main Palestinian militant groups have denied any involvement in the abductions. Palestinian security forces have helped in the search, a priority for the Hamas-led Palestinian government, said Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh. (Hancocks, 2006)
3. Centanni, a US citizen, and Wiig, who is from New Zealand, were kidnapped while in their work vehicle just a few yards from the headquarters of the Palestinian security services in the center of Gaza City. The gunmen took them after disarming their bodyguard. Centanni was behind the wheel of the FOX vehicle, marked in large letters "TV," when the gunmen pulled up and stopped them, a FOX employee said. (Press, 2 FOX News Journalists Kidnapped in Gaza, 2006)
4. The balance of Fox News’ coverage of events in Israel and Lebanon did not change with respect to CNN and MSNBC’s coverage. When their reporters were kidnapped Fox News released an internal memo saying only that their Israel correspondents were to comment on the matter and that no other shows were to discuss the matter and that no guests were to be booked to discuss the matter. Although Fox News never commented on their behavior, presumably they wished to draw as little attention to the kidnapping as possible as government authorities worked for the release of the victims. Additionally, for two weeks after the kidnapping the group who was responsible did not identify themselves and no demands were made. Because of this lack of information and news, there really was nothing further to report on other than that negotiations were ongoing. Some theories of the lack of coverage are those such as “The most common suspicion among my readers is that bias against Fox News Channel is coming into play. Another possible factor may be Fox’s own internal strategy of keeping the story low-key while it negotiates for Centanni and Wiig’s release.” (Gillette, 2006)
5. At the time of the kidnapping the Palestinian government was led by a majority of Hamas members. Hamas