Journalists at Risk

In the month of October journalists have been threatened, attacked, killed and imprisoned. Two Iraqi journalists were shot and killed in Mosul, a television station was attacked in the Maldives and a broadcast journalist was jailed in Gambia. Journalists traveling with Greenpeace have been jailed in Russia along with everyone on the boat. A van transporting newspapers in Yemen was brazenly fired upon, one media worker was shot and the other abducted. In Pakistan a journalist was gunned down outside his home for his reporting. According to International News Safety Institute, as of today there are 66 deaths of journalists and media workers this year. The Committee to Protect Journalists started tracking the killing of journalists in 1992. Since then the total number of deaths with a confirmed motive lands at 1,005.

Around the world journalists who are trying to do their job can be at risk. In addition to those who have been killed, dozens have been attacked, kidnapped, or forced into exile in connection with their coverage of crime, corruption and conflict. Killing The Messenger: The Deadly Cost of News tells some of their stories.

David Rohde, is a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist who was kidnapped in Afghanistan in 2008. When asked about the dangers faced by investigative journalists and the importance of uncovering the truth he speaks from experience.

"I feel like we live in this age of opinion and political polarization and I really believe there is something called ground truth that journalists get when they go into a place, talk to local people and they see with their own eyes what is happening and there are facts that the can convey. So the irony of the situation is that it's more important than ever to go in and see what's happening and get ground truth and report it to the public. But it's also more dangerous than ever for journalists to do that."

The risks journalists take to get the news add up to violent censorship. In most cases there's motivation behind silencing a reporter, getting a story out of the headlines and controlling the message. As Chris Cramer states:

"Censorship and intimidation can take many forms. It can be the threat of legal action, if you'd like, at the very least. It can be the threat of being beaten up or assaulted. Seen plenty of that in Russia in the last twelve months. It can be a threat against our families, against our loved ones. It can be the threat against our colleagues. It only takes one journalist to be beaten or assaulted, or murdered, for the rest of his colleagues to think, why am I in this profession? I'm not being well compensated for this profession. What keeps me going? Isn't there an easier way of making a living? "

Although she was kidnapped (along with her colleague Hussein Hanoun Al-Saadi ) in Iraq and held for months chained in a dark basement, Florence Aubenas continues to follow her path.

"I still have a romantic vision of my job. I love my job, it's my passion, it's my life. I think that when a kidnapper takes hostage a journalist, he also wants to state that he wants to monopolize the press, he wants to divert the power of the press so he can play his message. I see a symbol in this. Journalists represent an expression more than a humanitarian, a soldier or a citizen. When you divert the press, when you kidnap a journalist, you divert a press (that) belongs to you. Journalists are more and more careful but I think that our job is in risk taking. It must be controlled, journalists have to be aware but they can't afford to say that countries such as Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Niger are too dangerous therefore they won't go there anymore. 'Goodbye everybody, we will call you in few years to interview those who have survived.' Journalists can't afford this. It would be like if a doctor decides to give up when confronted to a disease. Our job is to be where the action is. This must be assumed. We must keep on doing it, by being very careful but I don't see a journalist who would say that he won't go in danger zones. The world is ours and we must be able to go everywhere. "

The free flow of unimpeded reporting is vital to a healthy democracy. As an audience it's our responsibility to be less cynical and to realize the threats journalists face.