Our editors & readers talk
Every year at this season, the statistics come out about the number of journalists around the world who died for the story.
There are a couple of key organizations who make the count; their methodologies vary as do their figures, but the end result is clear: journalism can be a deadly profession, and 2006 proved the point.
The Brussels-based International News Safety Institute, of which Im a board member, on Tuesday called 2006 the worst year on record for news media casualties. It counted a total of 167 journalists and support staff who died trying to cover the news in 37 countries in 2006.
As an organization that focuses on safety, INSI counts all deaths, including accidents.
The U.S.-based Committee to Protect Journalists, which Reuters also supports, said 55 journalists were killed in direct connection to their work in 2006, and it is investigating another 27 deaths to determine whether they were work-related. The CPJ, which focuses on press freedom issues, doesnt include accidental deaths or count support staff, which is why its numbers are lower than other tallies.
Paul Holmes has written about conditions for our bureau in ‘Working for Reuters as an Iraqi in Baghdad and in answers to readers’ questions. We at Reuters were fortunate not to have casualties this year, but it is clear from the statistics that the chaotic conditions in Iraq have made it one of the deadliest conflicts for journalists ever.
For journalists to do their job properly, they must be neutral observers, whose role in bringing the truth to light is recognized and appreciated — by all sides. Unfortunately it is clear that in many countries that neutral status is neither recognized nor appreciated, and journalists can be murdered because of their work and to keep the truth from coming out.
Most of the work done by the local journalists around the world who are most at risk of being killed or threatened for their work will never be seen internationally; it will never hit www.reuters.com. It may not be about anything of importance to anyone outside a local area.
But it was important enough for a journalist to investigate, and important enough for someone to kill over it.
As we begin the new year of news, lets spare a thought for the journalists working to bring the stories out. Lets think about those who work for big international organizations like Reuters, but equally lets think about those who are risking their lives in their own countries for their own readers.
David Schlesinger is Reuters Editor-in-Chief