CNN and Huffington Post withheld the reporting of the prisoner exchange negotiations between U.S. and Iran.
The two news organizations had information about the talks but decided to postpone the airing of the news, New York Times reported. Huffington Post even admitted that they had a State Department official on record. The official had provided them information about the secret negotiations between Iran and the U.S. government.
There were already talks in Iranian media that these negotiations could take place, but it was not confirmed. On the other hand, the U.S. government has not provided any official statement about the issue yet, Huffington Post noted.
The negotiations happened simultaneously. The U.S. government was also dealing with nuclear negotiations in Switzerland.
Iran was withholding four men including Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian. Rezaian was held for charges of espionage “in order to extract concessions from the Americans.”
Huffington Post source Chase Foster said he was upset with how the U.S. government was dealing with the negotiations.
The Importance of Timing
Huffington Post explained that, though it is the responsibility of journalists to provide honest reporting, they had to weigh matters delicately.
“For years, a journalistic convention has held, more or less, that hostage and prisoner swap talks ought not to be reported on if doing so risks upending the negotiations. When a member of the media is involved, especially a well-respected one like Rezaian, the pressure to stay quiet becomes much greater. The convention can extend dangerously beyond prisoner talks, with the government pressuring the press to withhold any sensitive information it claims could harm national security — a vague concept defined by motivated minds.”
CNN also admitted they had knowledge of the negotiations but “did not report on this information in order to avoid any possibility of interfering in the negotiations.”
CNN also said that they received a request from the U.S. government to delay the reporting on the issue.
New York Times noted that this is not the first time news organizations have struggled with the blurred line of responsible journalism. Back in 2009, New York Times also withheld the news about the kidnapping of Times reporter David Rohde.
Then executive editor of The Times Bill Keller said: “From the early days of this ordeal, the prevailing view among David’s family, experts in kidnapping cases, officials of several governments and others we consulted was that going public could increase the danger to David and the other hostages.”
Because of the intricate processes of these negotiations, one media report could tip the harmony of both negotiating parties.
Huffington Post further noted that they stood firm with their decision that it is more important to save the lives of the hostages than the big attention they could get for releasing the story.
“So we held the story…We’re glad we did.”
Apparently, the decision to be silent was the best choice. A couple of hours ago, it was confirmed that three Americans were freed in a prisoner swap with Iran. Though the U.S. government has not released any official statement on who landed at the Ramstein Air Base, they were speculated to be Jason Rezaian, Pastor Saeed Abedini, and Amir Hekmati.
The State Department’s Brett McGurk confirmed the arrival by posting photos of Jason Rezaian at the airport.
— Brett McGurk (@brett_mcgurk) January 17, 2016
According to CNN, a fourth prisoner that was released, Nosratollah Khosravi-Roodsari. Though he was released, it was Khosravi-Roodsari’s “free determination” to stay in Iran.
Families and friends of the released hostages are relieved to hear the news. Abedini’s wife, Naghmeh also sent her regards to President Obama.
— Naghmeh Abedini (@NaghmehAbedini) January 17, 2016
[Photo by Getty Images/Andrew Burton]