The role of the fixer


Amanda Lindhout was a Canadian freelance journalist when she was taken by Islamist insurgents in Somalia around 2008. Daniel Pearl was working for the Wall Street Journal when he was kidnapped by Pakistani militants in 2002 for investigating further into the “shoe-bomber” case. Steven Sotloff was an American freelance journalist when he was taken by ISIL militants in Syria last year.

A lot of the times, we don’t hear about these journalists unfortunately until their deaths or rescues are brought to the forefront. We don’t tend to hear about how the journalists made their way through enemy territories, how they managed to efficiently communicate during their time there, where they found their sources.

At the source of all of this maneuvering, this bribing and threatening, this sneaking around and truth-seeking are the fixers, those who work behind the scenes. In reality, the journalist has a stuntman.

Lindhout, after 15 months of captivity, shared her story with the world in her novel A House in the Sky. In this, she expressed something of concern: the fixer’s tendency to prioritize big-name papers over freelancers. However, she later expressed something of even more concern: the fixer’s deaths going unnoticed.

This week, Ilene Prusher, a multimedia journalist based in Jerusalem, visited the University of Miami to talk about her book: Baghdad Fixer. Journalists like Lindhout and Prusher have acknowledged the sacrifices that fixers make for journalists and essentially, the truth.

Just like the journalist, the fixer pursues the story — many times endangering him or herself and family. Many do not know the story of Yosef Abobaker, Steven Sotloff’s fixer who was also kidnapped on that fateful day and tried his best to save Sotloff. Although Abobaker was released, he was threatened by ISIS. After he was freed, he was never interviewed by any American officials or investigators.

All I propose is that if the world paid more attention to these unknown heroes, a lot more information could be offered up — helping journalists from nations and publications everywhere.

To read the story on Yosef Abobaker: