Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Lest we forget

I saw this a couple of days ago. Due to being in the midst of the month from hell work-wise I haven't had a chance to get it up here, but thought it was important to post something before it slips my, and the rest of the world's, mind.

While it may seem every journalist and media outfit has been transfixed on the events in American and Washington, on Monday From the Frontline reported (on Twitter, obviously) the shocking statistic that in the first 20 days of 2009 more than 10 journalists have been killed around the globe. Although by no means a satisfactory figure, by way of comparison there were 41 confirmed industry deaths in the whole of 2008. The latest was a young Russian reporter, Anastasia Baburova, who worked for the same anti-Kremlin newspaper as Anna Politkovskaya (pictured).

I'm sure many blog posts could, and have, been filled with musings on the perils of working in Russia, and their government's apparent failure to react, but the other deaths in the list were just as shocking. The eerie case of Lasantha Wickrematunge, editor of Sri Lankan paper the Sunday Leader, who wrote an editorial in preparation for his own muder. Nepalese journalist Uma Singh, "hacked to death" by 15 men, as well as three journalists killed in the Gazan/Israeli fighting, and deaths in Pakistan and Somalia.

These journalists were all working in very dangerous parts of the world, many in countries known for this most extreme form of press restriction. But it reminded me of Rodney Pinder of the International News Safety Institute (INSI) when he said all journalists should take responsibility for their own safety seriously, no matter what part of the world they are in. In my blog post Crying lone wolf, I talked about how becoming multi-media journalists could be isolating us from our colleagues. I wonder whether there's a point at which this isolation could become dangeous. Being able to multi-task suddenly seems irrelevant when you're stuck in a situation you can't get out of. The case of the student journalist in Calais last year is a haunting case in point.

The INSI safety code should be essential reading for any trainee journalist, especially if, as Rory Cellan-Jones said, we are moving towards a more lonesome way of working. By keeping an eye on those reporters who have ended up dying for their story, perhaps something can be learned from their sacrifice. The counter on INSI's home page for "journalists and media staff killed in 2009" is a sad indication there will be more to come.

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