Is Journalism Becoming Too Dangerous?

Posted by: Erika Owen

We’ve all heard about (and seen) Anderson Cooper’s recent Egyptian incident ending in a few bruises, a nice midday sprint from people threatening his life, and some Flip video coverage—luckily, the bruises were the extent of the damage. As journalists, our job is to get out there and find news to share with the masses. Getting all of the hard-earned information written down should be the least of our problems.

Journalists abroad. Photo courtesy of: Creative Commons and the US Air Force

Besides Cooper’s interaction with dangerous journalism, there have been hundreds of other incidents ending with much more serious consequences. Here are just three that all ended the same way.

Daniel Pearl—Pakistan. Kidnapped and beheaded, this Wall Street Journal reporter was the victim of a terrorist act by Al-Qaeda in Pakistan. Pearl, 38, was on his way to an interview when a group calling itself The National Movement for the Restoration of Pakistani Sovereignty abducted him. On Feb. 1, 2002, Pearl was beheaded. Twenty days later, a video showing the beheading, and a list of demands (that were not met, resulting in Pearl’s death) was released. These demands ranged from releasing prisoners in Guantanamo Bay, the end of the United State’s presence in Iraq, the return of Pakistani prisoners to Pakistan and the delivery of a group of F-16 planes Pakistan had paid for and never received.

Dickson Ssentongo—Uganda. You don’t have to be an American journalist to be in danger. Ssentongo was a news anchor involved with local politics. It is believed that this was the motive behind his death. This is a much more recent incident, occurring in September 2010. Ssentongo was followed and beaten with iron bars until dead on his way to work around 5 a.m. on a Wednesday.

Abdulmalik Akhmedilov—Russia. Deputy editor of a Makhachkala-based newspaper named Hakikat and chief editor of a local political monthly, Akhmedilov, 32, was assassinated outside of Makhachkala on Aug. 11, 2009. A colleague of Akhmedilov, informed the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) that Akhmedilov had openly criticized federal and local officials for political and religious suppression. Did we sign a contract washing our beliefs and passions away when we became journalists? Apparently Akhmedilov did.

According to The Guardian, as of Dec. 30, 2010, 57 journalists had been killed world-wide. It also found Pakistan to be the deadliest country for journalists. What would you do if you were asked to complete an assignment in Pakistan, or another dangerous country? Do you think it’s worth risking your life over? What kinds of precautions are there that journalists can take against attack? Is there something that their country’s government should be doing to protect them?

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4 responses to “Is Journalism Becoming Too Dangerous?

  1. It’s crazy to hear about how many journalists are threatened and hurt while covering the news. They are not out to hurt anyone, just convey the story. It confuses me many times why they are killed, when their purpose is not to harm but to help.

    However, I think journalists must take into account the dangers when they “sign up” for the job. It’s not always going to be easy. If they’re looking for that, there are plenty of 9-5 cubicle jobs awaiting them. These journalists should be commended. They risk their lives to tell breathtaking, inspiring stories, yet get little return for themselves. They leave their families and comfortable lives so others can “see” through them. I’m not sure if I could do it, but I admire the people who do.

  2. This is amazing. First I just want to say this is one of the better blogs I’ve seen on this same topic.

    But I agree that journalists know what they are getting into when they get assigned or assign themselves to certain topics or articles to cover. No one wants to hear of someone putting themselves in danger just to get the news back to us but sometimes it is all that they can do.

  3. Reporters Without Borders tracks violence against journalists. In 2008, 60 journalists were murdered and 29 were kidnapped. The war in Iraq has caused the deaths of more than 200 journalists and media workers. Already in 2011, five journalists have been killed and 152 imprisoned worldwide. Close to home, journalists working in Mexico are at great risk of being killed by thugs in the drug cartels.

  4. I agree, Katie. But I can’t help that thinking how hard it would be to accept the consequences that one story may have on my life if I were put in that position. Journalists deserve some major respect.

    Thanks, Chelsey! I wonder if sometimes it’s the power that journalism and the media have that puts journalists in danger. There’s usually someone who doesn’t want a story to get out, and the journalists are the enemies in this situation. They have the power of revealing stories–and the public listens. That is the main idea. If the public didn’t pay attention to journalists, then the power is gone. Would the danger be gone, too?

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