Thoughts & Views: In harm’s way around the world

Anja Niedringhaus

These days, when we’re used to getting our news so easily on the internet, we tend not to think twice about the degree of difficulty that may have been involved for the news-gatherer to get that story or photographer to snap that image.

Especially if the coverage of that particular event is being done in countries where guarantees of press freedoms are unheard of and journalists are targeted for threats or physical confrontations.

Such was the case last Friday, April 4, when an Afghan police commander shot and killed Anja Niedringhaus, a 48-year-old Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer for the Associated Press, and badly wounded AP reporter Kathy Gannon as they were preparing to cover the national elections in that country.

The Committee to Protect Journalists, an independent, nonprofit organization that promotes press freedom worldwide and which has tracked attacks on news employees, has logged 703 journalists murdered globally since 1992.

Iraq heads the list of fatalities with 164 deaths reported during the 22-year period chronicled by CPJ. Afghanistan ranks 12th deadliest with a total of 26 killings.

Rounding out the top 10 are: Philippines, Syria, Alberia, Russia, Pakistan, Somalia, Colombia, India and Mexico.

In Mexico, “[J]ournalists across the country have told CPJ that they avoid coverage of crime and corruption in order to stay alive.”

Among the most recent outrageous cases noted by CPJ:

• In 2011, Gerardo Ortega, a radio talk show host in the Philippines who exposed corruption, was fatally shot in the back of the head while shopping. Arrests were made and the murder weapon was traced to a provincial governor’s aide but the case suffered a setback “when an alleged conspirator who had turned state witness was killed in prison [in 2013],” CPJ reported.

• In 2008, Abdul Samad Rohai, Helmand correspondent for the BBC’s Pashto service and a contributor to the Pajhwok Afghan News agency, was abducted and shot in Afghanistan after reporting on the links of drug trafficking to government officials.

• In 2012, Russian TV anchor Kazbek Gekkiyev working in the North Caucuses region, was fatally shot on his way home from work.

• In 2012, Rajesh Mishra, a reporter for a Hindi-language weekly in India who had exposed financial irregularities at schools in Rewa, died after attackers pommelled him with iron rods. Six suspects were arrested in 2013 but none has been convicted.

• In 2012, Enenche Akogwu of Independent Channels TV was killed as he reported on the aftermath of terrorist attacks in Kano in the north of Nigeria.

The lesson here is that these courageous civilians willingly put their lives on the line every day for the sake of getting the facts out to the people.

Here in the U.S., we in the news business are fortunate to have the benefit of statutory press protections to help us do our research without the threat of physical intimidation or coercion from government or law enforcement, for the most part.

Given the conditions contributing to the stifling of press freedoms around the world, we in the business of reporting the news ought not to be taking the right to practice our trade – and the responsibility that goes along with it – for granted.

– Ron Leir

Learn more about the writer ...