MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
The International Federation of Journalists reports that as of April 30 this year, 34 journalists have been killedthroughout the world. In 2017, 65 journalists were slain, according to Reporters Without Borders. If the pace of murders continues this year — and that will only be known at the end of 2018 — 102 journalists will be killed.
These figures do not include those wounded, such as the several journalists shot in the recent deadly Israeli attacks on Gaza in the last two months.
Many motives are behind journalists being killed. Sometimes they are killed by those seeking to stop them from uncovering corruption or conducting reporting that is objectionable to governments. Other times they become targets for terrorists or die due to the risks of being in conflict zones.
In Gaza, it is possible that Israel is actually targeting journalists to prevent them from offering a counter-narrative against Israeli propaganda about the need for the appalling massacre of unarmed Palestinians. The journalists, after all, wear vests that clearly identify them as members of the press. This is a brutal example of a government attacking the media through its military.
However, sometimes journalists are victims of being in violent zones. The Columbia Journalism Review, for instance, reported on 10 Afghan members of the press killed in one day in Afghanistan:
It was the deadliest day for journalists in Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban regime. On April 30, a double suicide blast in the capital, Kabul, killed nine journalists. Some died instantly; others clung, briefly, to life. Their names were Yar Mohammad Tokhi, Sabawoon Kakar, Abadullah Hananzai, Maharram Durrani, Ghazi Rasooli, Nowroz Ali Rajabi, Saleem Talash, Ali Saleemi, and Shah Marai, and they worked for a combination of local and international outlets — including AFP, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, TOLO News, TV1, and Mashal TV. Not long afterward, about 100 miles away, in Khost Province, BBC reporter Ahmad Shah was also killed — shot by a group of armed men while cycling. By day’s end, the journalist death toll was 10.
It was a reminder that in zones where opposition fighters are battling the government, journalists face risks from both sides.
Certainly, it can be argued that we live in an age of corporate news coverage. That is the case in the United States, minus exceptions primarily on the internet. The US, to its credit, has not had any journalists killed for political reasons in the last few years, though some have faced the treat of incarceration. However, around the world, journalists working for media outlets that are antagonists to ruling powers and corrupt kingpins face acute threats on their lives.
As an April 30 CTV news article noted:
Just over a week ago, hundreds marched in Ecuador after a pair of journalists and their driver were kidnapped and killed. Last month, similar scenes played out in the streets of Slovakia where an investigative journalist who had been researching political corruption was shot to death, along with his fiancée.
“We really need to step up as an international community to make sure that journalists are not killed for their job and that they don’t end up withdrawing themselves from the profession because they’re afraid of being killed,” Margaux Ewen, the executive director of Reporters Without Borders North America, told CTV News from Washington, D.C.
The murdering of a journalist is not just the silencing of an individual’s voice; it is an act of intimidation to other writers for the press, warning that they too could become victims if they do not toe the line.
In the United States, the pressure is more subtle. Reporters, for instance, have been arrested. Jenni Monet — a journalist on assignment for Indian Country Today — and Amy Goodman were both taken into custody while reporting from Standing Rock and clearly identified as journalists. Pressure in the US also takes the form of Donald Trump threatening to deny White House press credentials of those engaged in what he claims is “fake news.” The goal is the same, however: to silence the reporting of information that challenges the status quo.
Just a short time ago, UNESCO (of the United Nations) celebrated World Press Freedom Day on May 3. Its theme was “Keeping Power in Check: Media, Justice and the Rule of Law.” The day covered “issues of media and the transparency of the political process, the independence and media literacy of the judicial system, and the accountability of state institutions towards the public.”
The tension between state institutions and the media exists around the world. That is clearly the case in the United States, where the executive branch — particularly under Trump — wants to conceal as much information as possible that might meet with public disapproval or expose corruption in the highest branches of government.
The murdering of journalists in nations around the world is the ultimate measure of suppressing a free press. However, it is on the end of an extreme range of actions, including those taken in the United States to intimidate the media. Journalists should be free and unfettered and not have to fear being killed or intimidated for their reporting.