Reuters Editors

Our editors & readers talk

Deadly news

January 2, 2007

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.

Both organizations detail each case they count on their websites (INSI, CPJ) the lists make sobering reading about brave men and women who died, mostly in their home countries.

Another important tally is by Reporters Without Borders, the Paris-based NGO, which we reported on earlier this week.
Iraq is a very deadly conflict to cover, and particularly for local journalists.

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

Comments

Reuters has about 2,300 journalists. I used to be one of them. I say this with considerable reservation because I never faced any hardship (apart from long hours on a campaign bus), any deprivation (save for being late to the hospitality table) and I certainly never had a closer encounter with death than by crossing a Boston street against the light.

I always very proudly identified myself as a Reuters journalist, and even when my career took me to the peripheries of the craft I remained in editorial, feeling very superior indeed, basking in the glow of those who actually did carry the torch.

The truth is that I felt guilty being identified with real journalists: the ones who got to work in a war zone because their homes were suddenly in a war zone; the ones who could bid their families goodbye every day knowing somewhere inside that this may be the last farewell; the ones assisting a foreign news organization knowing this could be held against them and their families in a most serious way; the ones for whom hardship meant cold, heat, hunger, thirst, injury, weariness. All this, and toiling in obscurity too.

There is a great deal of chatter about the lofty philosophical topics of journalism today, about the overwhelming influence technology will once again have on the business, about the financial pressures facing mainstream publishers, about the relationship between writer and reader and where the line is drawn.

So it is good to be reminded, at least once a year, of the people who make all of this possible. I am gratified that my old haunt takes this as seriously as it does, facing down as best it can what often seems like military indifference, for all the good that seems to do. I am heartbroken for the loved ones of those who did not make it to 2007 and appreciative of all who — quite irrationally — put their sense of responsibility ahead of everything else.

I was never worthy to be in this crowd, and I remain humbled.

 

Hello David Schlesinger:

On behalf of all the unheralded journalists who work quietly and dangerously outside the realm of the mainstream corporation, and who are often unpaid volunteers risking their lives working for the common good…I want to thank you for your kind thoughts.
Joseph Raglione. Ex/Dir: The World Humanitarian Peace and Ecology Movement…affiliated with GreenPeace, The Sierra Club, the WWF, and many many more. P.S. How many trees will you plant this spring?

Posted by Joseph Raglione | Report as abusive
 

It is a hard job indeed. As it has been called-the fourth power- it became of essential importance in society. And all of us, readers, nead to keep information free and updated.

 

I appreciate that you span the difference between whether “media workers” are to be counted as “journalists” or not, and clarify where your personal commitment lies. I was dumbfounded to see an NY Times headline on this subject making the distinction. Why should the paper’s collective bargaining positions enter into its news reporting? Let us call these people what they were — for my money they were “journalists,” too, but you also are quite right: They were dedicated human beings doing all of us a precious service.

 

I know journalists are brave and courageous, but seriously, havn’t we had enough of the violence? Its time to bring our brave young men and women journalists home from Iraq. Please do not question my patriotism because I do indeed support our journalists (while I don’t support their mission.) Its just that they’re in a quagmire over there and after four years, its time that we admitted that we have lost and can no longer get any news from Iraq.

Posted by Shiloh | Report as abusive
 

Post Your Comment

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/
  •