What prevents us from ruining the world

We are strong enough to make exceptions

Jan Philipp Reemtsma was kidnapped by three criminals in Hamburg 24 years ago. They held him in an unknown location for 33 days. Only after the ransom of 30 million D-Marks had been paid did they release Reemtsma. Just a few days after the kidnapping, all Hamburg TV, radio and newspaper offices knew that Reemtsma had been kidnapped. But not a single medium reported about it until it was released. The family and the police asked the journalists to keep quiet so as not to endanger the abductee's life.

It was by no means a matter of course that this request would be complied with. Any editor-in-chief that pledged itself to remain silent had to fear that others would not be silent. So competitive disadvantage. In addition, it was clear to every journalist in the know that his silence ran the risk of violating his duty to inform and report and thus to act contrary to his professional ethics.

But if one weighs the life of the kidnap victim and the citizens 'need for information against each other, then - in view of the perpetrators' willingness to use violence - it was right that the press had complied with the request of the family and police. The public was fully informed after the end of the abduction.

And the 33-day vow of silence did not deprive the citizens of any information that they absolutely needed during the kidnapping. The fact that in one case a public that was partially susceptible to sensations was not served for almost five weeks was an acceptable disadvantage.

The moratorium on silence did no recognizable damage to Hamburg or the Republic. Obviously, in very specific situations it can be advisable not to report in detail about ongoing events.

Perhaps this could also apply to the acts of Islamist individual terrorists, which have been increasing for years and armed with a knife, a firearm or a truck, killing innocent people in Europe and trying to set a beacon with them. If there were a temporary moratorium of media silence, unlike in the case of Reemtsma, it would not be about saving the lives of the victims.

To refuse the triumph of the greatest possible publicity