Tag Archives: journalist safety
Human trafficking. Genocide. Illegal dumping of toxic waste. These atrocities are conducted by human beings who would do anything to cover up the truth. Reporting on human rights issues can be dangerous for journalists, especially those working in conflict areas or under authoritarian regimes. Journalists who report on these issues are often activists themselves and are subjected to the worst that humanity has to offer–beatings, torture, imprisonment, and death. Fear is a powerful weapon and can silence the truth as self-censorship becomes entrenched in the media psyche.
One recent example of the dangers of reporting on human rights issues is that of Liberian daily newspaper Front Page Africa journalist Mae Azango, who has gone into hiding after publishing an exposé on female genital mutilation in Liberia. Cultural traditionalists threatened her life after she revealed the genital mutilation rituals of a secret women’s society.
Journalists like Mae can benefit from several resources and programs designed to aid reporting on human rights. This year, Internews launched Speak Up, Speak Out: A Toolkit for Reporting on Human Rights Issues. Internews says the toolkit is a guide that “follows Internews’ tried and tested training methodology, which is hands-on, practical, and links content knowledge to journalism skills and technical tools in specific environments.” It combines background information on international human rights mechanisms; guidelines on producing nuanced, objective reporting on rights issues; and practical exercises that walk users step by step through the production of human rights stories. Internews hopes the toolkit will aid journalists in their struggle to report and raise awareness on human rights issues in their communities.
Other resources and programs for reporting on human rights include:
- The International Women’s Media Foundation offers the Elizabeth Neuffer Fellowship for Promoting Human Rights Journalism. The fellowship aims to promote “international understanding of human rights and social justice while creating an opportunity for women journalists to build their skills.”
- Media and Human Rights is a blog dedicated to the discussion of human rights reporting. The blog is written by Belgian journalist Jean-Paul Marthoz, a professor of international journalism, senior adviser of the Committee to Protect Journalists and of the Panos Institute, and vice-chair of the advisory committee of Human Rights Watch Europe and Central Asia Division.
- Amnesty International gives a Young Human Rights Reporter of the Year award. You can watch a video of last year’s competition here.
- The International Federation of Journalists published a handbook for journalists in southeast Europe titled Human Rights Reporting.
- IREX published a manual with the specific focus on reporting on human trafficking titled Reporting on Human Trafficking: Manual for Training Editors and Journalists in Egypt.
- The International Council on Human Rights Policy published a report titled Journalism, Media, and the Challenges of Human Rights Reporting.
- The Canadian-based Journalists for Human Rights has resources for journalists and conducts training programs on reporting on human rights.
- The Human Rights Network for Journalists in Uganda has resources for Ugandan journalists and a toll free helpline for those in need of assistance.
CIMA Intern Brittany Anicetti contributed to this post.
Anthony Shadid was my favorite reporter. All I had to do was see his byline and I would read every word of his articles. I used to see him from time to time around Beirut when I lived there and always wondered what new story he was working on and if it would earn him another Pulitzer. The world lost a great reporter when he passed away on February 16 from an asthma attack he suffered as he rode with smugglers in Syria.
Though in the end it was his own body that failed him, he died while getting the story, and there is no denying that Shadid often put his life at risk to report the truth. He was shot in Palestine, kidnapped in Libya, and spied on by Syrian agents at his own home in Lebanon. Writing about Syria is a touchy subject for anyone in Lebanon, which is not far removed from the deaths of journalists Samir Kassir and Gebran Tueni, both of whom were assassinated for their outspoken views on Syria in 2005.
As if losing Shadid weren’t enough, last week, journalists Marie Colvin and Remi Ochlik were killed in an apparent targeted attack on their makeshift media center in Homs. Two other journalists who were wounded in the attack, Edith Bouvier and Paul Conroy, have asked for help to get out of Syria to receive medical treatment. In all, eight journalists have been killed in Syria since mid-November.
The deaths and injuries remind us how dangerous it can be to work as a journalist. Fortunately, there are many great organizations working to help journalists in grave situations across the globe. Here are a few of them:
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) was founded in 1981 by a group of U.S. foreign correspondents. CPJ publishes an annual report, Attacks on the Press, as well as other information on journalist safety, and organizes protests and works through diplomatic channels to help journalists in dangerous situations.
The International News Safety Institute (INSI) is a coalition on news organizations, journalist support groups, and individuals dedicated to the safety of news media staff working in dangerous areas. INSI’s global safety network offers advice and assistance to journalists in these areas.
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) promotes international action to defend press freedom through independent journalists unions. IFJ is recognized by the United Nations as the organization empowered to speak on behalf of journalists and has established an International Safety Fund to provide aid to journalists in need.
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is an international organization that defends journalists imprisoned or persecuted for doing their job; exposes mistreatment and torture, fights against censorship and laws that undermine press freedom; gives financial aid to journalists or media outlets in difficulty as well to the families of imprisoned journalists; and works to improve the safety of journalists, especially those reporting in war zones.
Global Journalist Security, founded in 2011, is a Washington, DC-based consulting firm that offers security training and advice to media workers, citizen journalists, human rights activists, and NGO staff. The group also trains security forces in developed nations as well as in emerging democracies that aspire “to meet international press freedom and human rights standards how to safely interact with the press.”
They faced the worst human beings have to suffer–bullets, bombs, kidnappings, torture, murder. They sacrificed everything for the truth, a concept reviled by dictators and criminals all over the world.
The end of the year provides the opportunity to look back and consider just how many journalists have been killed in the line of duty in search of the truth. The murderers can be government officials, criminal groups, military officials, or businessmen seeking to prevent news of their corruption and misdeeds from reaching the public, marking reporters as targets for assassination.
As 2011 waned, at least six organizations published annual reports on the number of journalists killed across the globe:
- The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) reported that 45 journalists were killed under a confirmed motive, meaning their deaths were found to be work-related. In addition to these deaths, five media workers were killed, and 35 journalists were classified as “motive unconfirmed” while CPJ continues to investigate. The deadliest countries were Pakistan, Iraq, Libya, and Mexico.
- Reporters Without Borders (RSF in its French initials) also tracks the deaths of journalists. In 2011, its records indicate that 66 journalists were killed. The same countries as those in the CPJ report were found to be the most dangerous.
- The World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN) reported that 64 media employees were killed.
- The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) reported 106 deaths journalists and media personnel killed.
- The International News Safety Institute (INSI) lists 124 journalists and media staff killed.
- The International Press Institute’s “Death Watch” reports 103 journalists killed in 2011.
The disparity in these numbers results from definitions and methodology. CPJ has a strict approach to defining whose deaths were related to their work as journalists, and many on its unconfirmed list are included on the broader lists of the other organizations. The IFJ list includes drivers and other media workers. INSI counts accidental or health-related deaths.
The lack of effective monitoring systems is another reason for the disparity in numbers. It is often difficult to determine whether the death of a journalist happened in the line of duty or was a natural or accidental occurrence.
These factors make it difficult to say with precision how many journalists were killed last year for trying to report the truth. But whichever number is right, it is far too high.
For more information on journalist safety, see CIMA’s 2009 report Under Attack: Practicing Journalism in a Dangerous World.