Journalist risk has just increased

The Charlie Hebdo massacre has again highlighted that being a journalist can be a vrry risk occupation. Washington Post looks at this in Charlie Hebdo killings highlight the increasing targeting of journalists.

Perhaps the most unusual thing about the slayings of 10 journalists in Paris on Wednesday was that they occurred in Paris. Journalists are hunted and attacked regularly, though almost never in cosmopolitan Western capitals where free speech is a given.

Being a reporter may not be as dangerous as being a soldier, police officer, firefighter or coal miner — although it’s hard to know for sure, given uncertainty over how many people actually are journalists. But in many places, even outside war zones, carrying a notebook or a camera is a life-threatening proposition.

Journalists are killed for myriad reasons: for reporting about official corruption or organized crime, or simply for saying something unpopular. Sometimes, merely associating with the wrong sources can get a reporter killed

Charlie Hebdo journalists and cartoonists were provocative over a number of years and knew they were taking risks. Many other journalists at risk are just trying to inform the public.

In all, some 60 journalists were killed on the job worldwide in 2014, and 70 in 2013, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, an international organization based in New York. The group says the past three years have been the worst since it began compiling figures on journalists’ deaths in 1992.

Even that grim tally might understate the problem: The organization is still investigating 18 reporters’ deaths in 2014 to determine whether they were work-related.

Being killed is obviously a major issue but the threat of being killed can have a major effect on what journalists may risk investigating.

The striking thing about these fatalities is that they mostly were not the result of accidents or falling bombs and errant crossfire in war zones. In two-thirds of the cases, journalists died the way those killed at the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo did Wednesday: They were targeted because they were journalists.

That is something that has changed.

Several observers suggest that the death rate for journalists has been rising as the tools to bypass the traditional media have developed apace. In short, journalists are more expendable.

“People in conflict zones used to consider reporters as something like the Red Cross or Red Crescent Society — neutral noncombatants,” said Gene Policinski, chief operating officer of the Newseum Institute, the educational arm of the Newseum in Washington.

Warring factions “needed reporters to get their story out,” he said. “If no one reported their side of the story, it didn’t get out.”

No longer, he said. Militant and terrorist groups are as adept at using social media as the savviest teenager. Rather than conduits for spreading the word, he said, reporters have become mere bargaining chips to be ransomed for cash — or worse. “Now,” Policinski said, “having a journalist [around] is intrusive.”

Journalist casualties are not just colateral damage, they are expendable tools being used in wars and in terrorism.

“These are murders, not accidents,” Joel Simon, the CPJ’s executive director, said in an interview. “Journalists die because they wrote or broadcast something that offended powerful figures in a particular society.”

And they often don’t get much protection from states.

The CPJ maintains an “impunity index” of how often journalists’ deaths go unpunished. Although the figures vary by nation, about 90 percent of journalist deaths are never prosecuted. Iraq has been the worst offender for six years running, with a 100 percent impunity rate.

The Charlie Hebdo killings will just add to the pressures on journalists in trying to keep the public informed.

It’s essential that the free democratic world maintains an effective press. THis has just become harder.

12 Comments

  1. Mike C

     /  9th January 2015

    Watch pussies like Gower and Garner, head for dem far hills, Pee-Gee. LOL.

    • Pierre

       /  9th January 2015

      That’s why they send in Mike McRoberts instead.

  2. Mike C

     /  9th January 2015

    Has Mike McRoberts ever gone to Israel?

    • Pierre

       /  9th January 2015

      Wiki reports “McRoberts is best known for his work in some of the world’s most dangerous places, covering conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, Gaza, East Timor and Solomon Islands.” so I suppose that counts as a yes if he went to all those places (or more precisely Gaza).

      • “Mike McRoberts is on the ground in Israel, where he met 25-year-old Tia, who works as a military logistics officer.”

        “Aug 5, 2014 – 3 News Presenter Mike McRoberts recently spent time in both Israel and Gaza ”

      • Mike C

         /  9th January 2015

        Doesn’t Gaza Strip belong to Palestine?

  3. Mike C

     /  9th January 2015

    Only reason TV3 have sent McRoberts to Middle East country’s, is because, when you chuck a robe on him, he looks like a local-yokal. Whereas, Gower would stand out like dog-balls in that environment.

  4. Brown

     /  10th January 2015

    You’ll be in no danger Pete, initially at least, as you’re a Muslim poster boy and useful fool.

  5. Kittycatkin

     /  10th January 2015

    The cartoons weren’t journalism in any sense, they were stupid & deliberate provocation.

    • I agree. And they knew the risks of their continuted provocation.

      But that doesn’t excuse murder as a reaction.

  6. Brown

     /  11th January 2015

    I can live with drunks and speedsters (you are even starting to sound like a traffic cop now) because they are accidental incidents and an accident with one is not personal. To compare that type of event to someone deliberately killing me because I’m not like them is foolish. Somehow I find the risk of being killed in a liberal western country by an immigrant or the product of an immigrant’s disfunctional ideology really annoying even if the risk is low. The only immigrants that do this are Muslims. These deaths are not criminal acts, they are acts of war and we need to respond to Muslim non combatants in a fashion that nobbles them.