Opinion: Too Much Transparency is Damaging | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 03.05.2006
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Opinion: Too Much Transparency is Damaging

Along with relief over the release of two men held by their kidnappers for 99 days in Iraq come speculations in German media about possible ransom payments. That's not a good idea, according to DW's Peter Philipp.


Could speculation about ransom payments lead to similar pictures in the future?

Many questions exist and will remain unanswered about the hostages' release. But despite all the imperatives for press freedom, too much transparency is damaging. Such transparency would no longer harm the two hostages Nitzschke and Bräunlich, but it would put other Germans currently in Iraq -- or in other areas of conflict, for that matter -- at risk. After all, it was no coincidence that the two Leipzig-based engineers were kidnapped immediately after the German hostage Susanne Osthoff was freed in Iraq and while speculations were circulating in the media about whether or not ransom money had been paid.

Kid n appers do n ot po n der their victims

Firstly, transparency concerning ransom payments prohibits itself. It is not law that forbids it, but common sense. Germany did not participate in the war in Iraq, but that does not protect Germany and Germans from the possible consequences of the war. Kidnappers are terrorists -- regardless of whether they are motivated by political aims or "only" for reasons of money. And terrorists do not deliberate about the selection of their victims. Guilty? Not guilty? Involved in the conflict? Not? The perpetrators do not care. They are concerned with achieving their goal: either making headlines or making money.

25. Mahnwache für sächsische Geiseln im Irak

Leipzig citizens held vigils for their fellow townspeople in captivity

In this light, exposing details about the hostages' kidnapping and release should be prohibited. Publication of the details should not take place. That the German government must and does do everything in its power to help such hostages is undeniable. This is not the first time this has been proven. Yet after the hostages have returned, serious and intense debate should also take place about whether and how the government can and should prevent such kidnappings in the first place.

People travel to areas of co n flict a n yway

Warnings from the Federal Foreign Office apparently do not hinder Germans from traveling to areas of conflict. Sometimes it is adventuresome tourists, sometimes it is businesspeople and sometimes -- as in this case -- it is a company that disregards the risk to the lives of its employees.

A free political system will never be entirely capable of preventing such kidnappings. But there must be ways and means of reducing them and ensuring that those in charge take responsibility for the consequences. Trusting one's government to come to the rescue in an emergency is all fine and good, but it is no "free ticket" and the help must not be taken advantage of. In the case of Iraq, this means that despite the need for reconstruction and the interest of German companies in being a part of that, Germans are not missing out in the country as long as the security situation there does not improve and more stability does not emerge. And that may take some time.

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