If no story is worth a life, then why is murder the number one cause of journalists' deaths worldwide? In addition to those who have been killed, dozens have been attacked, kidnapped, or forced into exile in connection with their coverage of crime and corruption.
Since UNESCO started keeping track of the killing of journalists and media workers - 2012 proved to be the deadliest year on record. According to Center to Protect Journalists (CPJ) a New York advocacy group, the number reached 70 journalists killed -- motive confirmed.
According to International News Safety Institute (INSI), there have been 26 journalists and media staff killed in 2013 while doing their job -- getting us the news.
Syria is the most dangerous place for journalists to work, according to (according to CPJ and others). Several local and international journalists have been kidnapped with their health and whereabouts still in question. James Foley has been missing for 159 days, Austin Tice has been missing since August 13th, 2012. Of the 21 journalists detained in Syria, nineteen are local reporters who live and work in the communities they are reporting from.
The Geneva Convention and UN Resolution Article 19 should protect civilians and journalists alike but this isn't the case. Witness the chaos and destruction that led to the deaths of Marie Colvin, Remi Ochlik, Tim Hetherington and Chris Hondros in Syria and Libya.As Vaughan Smith of Frontline Club, who served as a soldier and as a journalist in war zones, says in Killing The Messenger: The Deadly Cost of News:
"Why can anyone think that our calling as journalists is any less important than the calling of a soldier, I don't believe it is -- I believe our calling is key. I believe that the sooner we understand and manage that, the sooner we will come up with safety policies that are really effective."
Reporting from the ever shifting frontlines is a dangerous pursuit but it's not just the reporters covering the news from conflict zones who are in danger.
In Mexico, the drug cartels are targeting the media. El Buen Tono was torched in Veracruz only a month after it launched its first edition. Chilling video of the attack shows the frightened reporters fleeing the building moments before several men with heavy artillery invade the news room smashing it up prior to setting the blaze that destroyed everything. The newspaper's owner, José Abella García, told Imagen Radio: "Everything has gone up in flames. It's all gone."
In Russia, Mikhail Beketov, a muck-racking journalist reporting on corruption, died due to a beating he barely survived when he was attacked in 2008. Complications from that beating led to his death just two weeks ago. Beketov was brutally beaten when his investigative reporting uncovered government corruption related to a major highway from Moscow through Khimki Forest. In an interview we did with Beketov (with his friend translating as Beketov's injuries left him without the ability to speak clearly) last year, he says there were warnings prior to his attack. "He expected an attack at any time but somewhere he miscalculated." First they killed his dog, then they set his car on fire, then came the attack that left him severely disabled with three fingers and one leg amputated.
And why should you care?
The abuses of civil liberties and denial of human rights for journalists varies dramatically from country to country. Everyone in the world is impacted each time a reporter is imprisoned or a blogger is censored. As countries restrict news, they restrict information that is important to all. Freedom of expression is not just about the people who cover the news; it's about all of us.
We will be blogging & tweeting about journalist safety and freedom of press in celebration of World Press Freedom Day on Friday, May 3rd.