CAMPAIGNS: Keeping Kashmir in the public eye - Public Awareness

On 4 July 1995, six tourists were taken hostage in Kashmir. One escaped and another was found decapitated the following month. The four remaining - Keith Mangan, Paul Wells, Donald Hutchings and Kirk Hasert - are still being held by a separatist group Al-Faran.

On 4 July 1995, six tourists were taken hostage in Kashmir. One

escaped and another was found decapitated the following month. The four

remaining - Keith Mangan, Paul Wells, Donald Hutchings and Kirk Hasert -

are still being held by a separatist group Al-Faran.



Initially, the Foreign Office advised the hostages’ families against

publicity in case it encouraged the kidnappers to believe they would win

their demands - the release of 15 comrades from prison.



In the middle of last year, Julie Mangan, Keith’s wife, realised

publicity was essential to keep pressure on the Government to negotiate

the hostages’ release, raise money so the families could visit Kashmir

and keep the hostages in the public eye. She appealed through the local

press in Keith’s home town of Middlesbrough for support. Fiona Bell and

Co offered help in kind to the overstretched campaigners.



Objectives



Bell’s team, more used to selling a story for clients like BP, DuPont

and Middlesbrough Football Club, initially helped the campaign to

extricate itself from the mire of media requests. Within 24 hours, an

office was officially opened and within 48 hours the 500th day press

conference was in the pipeline. With just three weeks before the

anniversary, Bell’s team aimed to generate as much national media

coverage and political interest as possible.



Tactics



A press conference was held in the Jubilee Room at the House of Commons

hosted by local MP Stuart Bell (no relation) to mark the 500th day in

captivity on 14 November. Granada’s The Big Story, featuring the

hostages’ plight, was previewed to give the journalists background

information.



Campaign patron Terry Waite, John McCarthy, the Chairman of the United

Nations Association, Stuart Bell and Julie Mangan all lit a five-wick

candle to symbolise the 500 days, with the slogan ’Light a Candle, Spare

a Thought’. Messages of support were read out from the British High

Commissioner in India, UNESCO’s director general and the Shadow Foreign

Secretary.



Results



Bell’s team was thrilled when 28 journalists turned up to report the

event, including seven national papers, ITN, Reuters and the Press

Association.



Unfortunately coverage was disappointing in the national press. Apart

from a few lines in the Daily Express, the 500th day was virtually

ignored by the national press, overshadowed by the Government’s

announcement to send troops to Zaire. Broadcasting fared slightly better

with national radio, Capital Radio and regional TV stations running the

story throughout the day.



Verdict



The ongoing campaign has raised a total of pounds 5,000 due in part to

the publicity efforts of Bell’s team. Middlesbrough Evening Gazette

reporter Gary Dixon, runs a daily update on Mangan and believes Bell’s

team has done much to keep the story fresh and give a new spin as often

as possible.



But nationally its strength has been muted.



However, the press conference succeeded in establishing contacts at

UNESCO and the UN which Bell claims could be helpful in future.



Client: Julie Mangan

PR Team: Fiona Bell and Co

Campaign: Hostages in Kashmir

Timescale: 1 October to 14 November 1996 and ongoing

Budget: None



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