Reporting home from dangerous zones

by Beacon Staff • September 28, 2005

Whether fighting to shed light on a war gone wrong or listening to opinions that are unpopular, journalists are a vital part of the international community.,"Journalists are members of an under-appreciated community.

For years, the men and women who strive to bring the world the stories it needs to know about have risked life and limb to keep the public informed.

Whether fighting to shed light on a war gone wrong or listening to opinions that are unpopular, journalists are a vital part of the international community.

Sometimes, while digging for information, foraging for sources and giving voice to unpopular ideas, journalists become more than than conveyors of news. They become the news.

On Sunday, a prominent Lebanese television journalist and critic of Syria's role in her country, was seriously wounded when her car blew up. May Chidiac was specifically targeted, not because she was in the direct line of fire on a battlefield, but because she espoused an unpopular view on television.

The most horrific example of a journalist getting caught in the crosshairs is that of Daniel Pearl. On Jan. 23, 2002, Pearl was on his way to an interview with a supposed terrorist leader in Pakistan when he was kidnapped by a militant group calling itself The National Movement for the Restoration of Pakistani Sovereignty.

Six days later, Pearl's kidnappers slit his throat, severed his head, videotaped the entire ordeal and then streamed the execution over the Internet for all to see. The brutality of Pearl's murder made headlines around the world but did little to keep attention on the dangerous jobs journalists sometimes have to do to keep the public informed.

Since the invasion of Iraq in 2003, journalists from across the globe have gone to the land of the Fertile Crescent to report on the war and, more recently, the insurgency.

To date, more than 65 journalists have lost their lives in pursuit of public enlightenment in Iraq.

This number may seem small in comparison to the nearly 2,000 American soldiers who have fought and died in the country's oil rich sands and the thousands of Iraqi police and citizens murdered in random attacks, but if you put it into perspective, the number of journalists killed is staggeringly high.

According to Reporters Without Borders, in the more than 20 years of fighting in Vietnam only 63 journalists lost their lives. If we were to take the number of journalists killed in Iraq and project that over 20 years, the number of journalists to lose their lives would be nearly 660.

Journalists do not sign up for combat like Marines, they swear only to maximize truth and minimize harm.

The public often maligns journalists as being "trashy" or "unscrupulous," but they play a vital role in a free society.

We need journalists to keep us informed when the government and our politicians are trying to scam us. Journalists make up the final level of checks and balances that allow the public to be informed and stay smart.

Not all journalists have the capability to be embedded in Baghdad or tour the jungles of Vietnam, but without those trusted few, the most vital information the public needs might never reach the light of day.

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