Tuesday, March 03, 2009

"Journalists Killed in the Line of Duty": a sobering look at what it takes to have an effective press

Freedom of the press has long been singled out as a parallel fundamental right to First Amendment freedom of speech, and the established press has always been considered an essential safety valve for American and western democracy. Professional journalists must take risks and go to great lengths in primitive areas to get original stories. Indeed, the tendency for the public to expect reported content to be “free” (because of the “equality” and democratization of the Web, along with “free entry” publication), can sometimes undermine the investment necessary to get the hard stories.

Reporters are not soldiers but sometimes they need to be as fit and courageous as soldiers. The 54 minute film “Journalists Killed in the Line of Duty” (2005, from Starz / Overture / CameraPlanet / Trio, directed by Steven Rosenbaum) demonstrates who the intentional compromise of journalists can be a threat to us all. An important resource for the material in this film is the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Anderson Cooper hosts the film, where the stories of six journalists who lose their lives between 2002 and 204 are told. The first is perhaps the best known, Daniel Pearl, subject of the movie “A Mighty Heart”. Pearl (review on movies blog June 2007) tries to arrange a clandestine interview with an operative (phony name Bashir) in the coastal city Karachi and instead was setup and kidnapped and eventually murdered. His wife knew something was wrong when he didn’t pick up his cell phone. This part of the film shows on-location sites in Karachi well, including the Village Restaurant.

Two other journalists in the film, Edgar Dalmaderio and Tim Lopes, where targeted and assassinated for reporting corruption in the Philippines and Brazil respectively (the later, with kneecapping and torture by drug lords first was particularly gruesome). It’s this practice by terrorists, gangs, or any lawless elements of a society that present the greatest threat to freedom: the ability of others on a “street news” level to find out what is going on.

Rafaele Ciriello lost his life in Ramalla, on the West Bank, but he may have been shot by Israeli forces.

David Bloom died of a leg embolism after days on a “Generation Kill” style mission (following the HBO series inspired by a Rolling Stone reporter) where he had to sleep upside down, in the days after the US invaded Iraq in 2003. Taras Proystruk died in the Palestine Hotel in Baghdad from friendly fire.

Update: May 22, 2009

There was another incident involving a female journalist who criticized Israel, documented here on YouTube.

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