Videos depicting beheadings of journalists, aid workers and other foreigners are too common as we focus on the conflict in Iraq and Syria. The photos of the James Foley beheading that were captured from the video released by ISIS haunt me. They’re terrifying.
In late November, news regarding an Israeli-Canadian who was reportedly captured by ISIS members occupied Canadian and international headlines. Unlike Foley, Gill Rosenberg isn’t a journalist. She’s a fighter.
From the Toronto Star: “Canadian-born woman reportedly captured by ISIS.”
CTV reported that “ISIS may have captured B.C. woman.”
The National Post: “Islamist websites claim ISIS kidnapped Canadian woman who joined fight against jihadists”
Looking at these headlines, my first reaction was concern for Gill Rosenberg’s family members and loved ones. Grisly images flashed through my mind as I read the headlines. The first question that I asked myself was: “Will ISIS behead her?”
As many of the articles mention, websites linked to Islamic State extremists released the reports saying Rosenberg had been kidnapped, which was in turn reported by international media. The key fact to highlight: Islamic State of Iraq and Al-Sham extremists claimed the kidnapping, nobody else. Rosenberg was fighting alongside the Kurdish militia, which denied the kidnapping.
The National Post initially shared the news via the Canadian Press. There was no mention of any source from the Kurdish militia. The Post read, “An Israeli newspaper report says Islamist websites are claiming extremists have kidnapped an Israeli-Canadian woman who joined Kurdish fighters overseas.” The Star published a similar one. Both newspapers later posted updates as the situation unfolded, but at first there was no source mentioned except Israeli newspapers citing jihadist websites with little reference to Rosenberg’s Facebook post.
It’s a conflict zone that’s difficult to get to for journalists, but reporting on a kidnapping should be something handled with caution. It’s not only breaking news, it’s a human being in danger. On November 20, just over a week after the news of the kidnapping, Rosenberg posted on her Facebook page saying her profile would be managed by someone else until December 8 and asked friends not to message her.
A quick search would have shown any reporter that she might had chosen to disappear from social media, that she wasn’t quiet by force.
If she was really kidnapped, the Kurds would have confirmed it. Later, she appeared on Facebook to say: “Guys, I’m totally safe and secure. I don’t have internet access or any communication devices with me for my safety and security.” It took many news outlets one day to report the updates. However, this day could have been distressing for those who care about her. Her Facebook wall was filled with posts from people who seemed concerned. All those who follow news of the conflict are aware of what groups like ISIS are capable of doing when they capture someone. This issue would have been solved if journalists had referred to Kurdish militia prior reporting on what ISIS claimed.