How the Chandlers' release could spur Somali pirate kidnappings
The size of the ransom and the amount of media attention for Paul and Rachel Chandler has set a 'bad precedent' that could put others in danger from Somali pirates, analysts say.
Nairobi, Kenya; and Johannesburg, South Africa
In Pictures Somali pirates
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On Monday morning, they woke in the colonial-era splendor of the British High Commissioner’s mansion in Nairobi, and ate a full English breakfast served by white-jacketed waiters.
These details are among the avalanche of media coverage of the retired British couple’s release after more than a year as hostages to Somali pirates. On one British 24-hour news channel, the story even pushed the release of Aung San Suu Kyi off top billing.
But that attention – and, more importantly the fact that an estimated ransom of $800,000 bought their freedom – has set a “bad precedent” that could endanger others, analysts say.
"While we are all relieved that the innocent couple is now fine, the matter of the achievement of their freedom, through payment of ransom, sets a bad precedent for others,” says J. Peter Pham, senior vice president of the National Committee on American Foreign Policy in New York. “The lesson for the pirates is that you can grab any Western and you make a media story out of them.
“You can add value to what you capture if you abuse them, if you create heartache in Britain or wherever they come from, and someone is going to come up with the money for their release, and someone is going to profit from this."
The problem with media coverage
Mr. and Mrs. Chandler, both from the south of England, were kidnapped in the dead of night last October as they slept aboard their 38-foot yacht, moored in the Seychelles archipelago more than 800 miles east of the Somali coast and far from the pirates’ usual hunting grounds. Almost instantly, the twists and turns of their story became front-page news, especially in Britain.
The attention became so great that the couple’s family went to court and won a legal injunction barring further coverage until they were freed. The reasoning being that in a vacuum devoid of publicity, the pirates would begin to think that the world had forgotten about the couple, that their value was diminishing, and that a deal should be struck quickly.
But now that the legal prohibitions have been lifted, other pirates seeing the media’s reaction will think again.