The six-man crew of a Danish cargo ship held hostage for more than two years was finally released Tuesday.
The crew was made up of two Danes and four Filipino men; Captain, Eddy López, is Chilean who later gained Danish citizenship. López was born in the coastal city of Valparaíso and moved to Denmark twelve years ago.
Shortly after January 12 2011, the families of the six men working aboard the W/V Leopard received horrible news — their loved ones had been taken by Somali pirates. For more than two long, agonizing years, they waited for any news about the sailors’ possible release. As of Tuesday, their prayers have been answered. The men are coming home.
The affair has been a subject of public outrage in Denmark where many felt that both Danish authorities and ShipCraft did not put enough effort into securing the release of the sailors. The hostage situation has been intensely covered in Danish media Ekstra Bladet and they are now being accused of harming and interfering with negotiations. Ekstra Bladet claims to have played an important role in the release believing that their articles helped put pressure on ShipCraft while stating that a freelance journalist worked as a link between the pirates and ShipCraft in the final negotiations.
They are especially criticized for an article about how the owner John Arne Larsson was spending money in a big way, among other things buying a house in Sweden for DKK 50 million, which made the pirates up their claim.
The relatives of the Danish seamen have also been critical of Ekstra Bladet.
“We see it as they have been working in the pirates interests,” says father of Søren Lyngbjørn, Jan Lyngbjørn to Danish media DR.
The sister of Søren Lyngbjørn, Hanne Lyngbjørn is of the same mind.
”Ekstra Bladet intensifies their campaign at a time where we see something happening. The more they write and the more photos that are put on the front page, the harder it became to negotiate. At a time things halt completely,” she said.
”We believe that the process was slowed and even the pirates has referred to some of the articles by Ekstra Bladet, which made them increase their expectations of the ransom,” said presidents of ShipCraft, Claus Bech.
A security expert says that media attention has been a problem because it increases the value of the hostages in the eyes of the pirates.
”Ekstrabladet has gone way to far, says Tino Hanson, security expert at Risk Intelligence.
Chief Editor Poul Madsen says that while they take the criticism into consideration, many friends and family members of the two sailors appreciate the effort from Ekstra Bladet.
“It is hard to say when we should stop or keep going. The statements from the families affect me. It has been hard to decide whether or not we should keep going. But there are many family members and friends of Eddy Lopez and Søren Lyngbjørn who believe the opposite.”