As the number of wars and other armed conflicts around the globe increases, the number of journalists in harm’s way also increases. And any time a journalist is captured, tortured or otherwise abused, that issue becomes a public relations crisis for both the country of origin and the agency that sent them into the dangerous situation. Now the Associated Press has come out and put that onus directly on both of these players.
AP Vice President of International News John Daniszewski recently spoke at a UNESCO conference in Paris. His comments have brought this issue directly to the forefront of the news.
“We have been living through a crisis in journalism safety. In 2015, at least 71 journalists were killed worldwide for the work that they did. Scores more suffered serious injury. And too many have been arrested or censored.”
“My frustration and anger has only grown to see that in many cases it is not only armed militias and criminals carrying out crimes against journalists, but sometimes people acting on behalf of governments – governments that are pledged and obligated under international law to protect journalists along with other civilians in conflict zones. Often these same governments will state that the arrests or harassment of journalists in their country has nothing to do with their work, but that strains credulity.”
Daniszewski says the “normalizing” of this issue is totally unacceptable. He threw the gauntlet down at the feet of international organizations such as the United Nations and UNESCO to take direct and drastic action to protect journalists in the field.
His claimed goal is to create a “culture of safety” for journalism. That’s an admirable sentiment, but is it a real possibility? Journalists have been imbedded with forward troops in every war in the past century. Some have been captured. Some have been killed. While there’s some blame to go around in these instances, it’s fair to say the responsibility is most directly on the ones who did the killing – and no one else.
It’s a difficult truth because so many journalists make their careers reporting from dangerous areas. We’ve all seen today’s more famous anchors reporting in cities under bombardment or from one hot zone or another around the world.
So, in the end, while it may not be the responsibility of these agencies or the employers to make danger safer for journalists to do their work, it does stand as an apparent positive PR opportunity. If they choose to embrace the cause.