United States Agency for Global Media

Zaitoona al-Hoque

The Lead

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Your town has been a key fighting ground in a years-long conflict between violent extremists and the government forces. You report daily on the fighting, but doing so is extremely dangerous. Both sides of the conflict are eager to control information in the area, so you often get threatening calls after you publish a story.

You suspect the extremists, who have controlled your city for almost a year, are beginning to succumb to government forces. You talk with the city’s residents, who say that they have seen fewer extremist fighters. They are afraid to speak with you, however.

The Investigation

A contact in the state military tells you that their latest offensive to regain the city has been largely successful and that they expect a final push by the end of the week. You get permission to embed with a special unit that will be on the frontlines of the fight this evening.

The Confrontation

The next day as you are reviewing your notes, you get a notification that you’ve been tagged in a video on Facebook. You pull out your phone to watch.

The video shows several men confessing, apparently under duress, to collaborating with various media outlets and nongovernmental organizations. Militants then kill each of the men, all purported residents of your city, in the video.

This is clearly a threat that you will be killed if you publish your reporting.

The Decision

You call your friend who lives in a more stable city 200 kilometers away. He offers you a place to stay for months to escape from the militants.

You talk with your editor. The outlet supports you, but it also says that it cannot send another reporter to the city. If you report the story, you will face continued death threats from the extremists. But if you leave, you fear the residents of your city will not have access to valuable information.

What do you do?