Joel Simon of the Committee to Protect Journalists had an interesting comment about Rohde on CPJ’s blog:
Rohde…felt the need, both in his article and in a Q and A with readers hosted on the New York Times Web site, to defend his decision to undertake a risky interview with a Taliban commander as the final piece of his research into a book on Afghanistan.
Such decisions are, of course, subject to scrutiny and debate. At the same time, there is simply no way for a reporter to cover critical issues in dangerous places without occasionally running into serious trouble. The question is not only what journalists can do to reduce the risk, but how media organizations expect the public to respond when things go wrong.
This reminds me a bit of the public outcry over journalist Stephen Farrell’s kidnapping earlier this year, which resulted in the death of his translator and an unknown British soldier. He was not only berated for putting the lives of those two individuals at risk, but was also characterized as a selfish glory-seeker out for personal fame. I don’t know Farrell personally, so I can’t speak for the characterization (though it seems a bit unfair) but the intense criticism by the public over a kidnapped foreign journalist seems to follow the lines of a “blame the victim” mentality. Yes, journalists should exercise caution when reporting in sensitive areas and on sensitive subjects, but there’s really no solid justification for kidnapping one, either, is there?