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DYING FOR A GOOD STORY

07-07-2007

The release this week of the BBC's Gaza correspondent Alan Johnston was great news, but sadly not every journalist is so lucky. Andy Goff reports on the death toll among residents of the so-called Street of Shame.

The beheading of US newsman Daniel Pearl, the death in a car accident of Vietnam War reporter David Halberstam and the recent release of Gaza kidnap victim Alan Johnston made me think about the plight of journalists "in the field".

The International Press Institute reports that with 100 Journalists killed, 2006 was the most brutal year in the modern media’s history

The figure is largely due to the targeting of local journalists in Iraq, which saw 46 journalists killed. However, the murder of journalists in Afghanistan, Pakistan, the Philippines, Mexico, and Sri Lanka also added to the overall figure.

And with 55 journalists killed so far in 2007 that total could well be surpassed this year.

Here are the figures for the last ten years.

55 Journalists killed so far in 2007

100 Journalists killed in 2006

65 Journalists killed in 2005

78 Journalists killed in 2004

64 Journalists killed in 2003

54 Journalists killed in 2002

55 Journalists killed in 2001

56 Journalists killed in 2000

86 Journalists killed in 1999

50 Journalists killed in 1998

28 Journalists killed in 1997

So it always strikes me as odd that journalists should be held in so little regard by the public - the lowest of the low along with estate agents and politicians - when so many knowingly put their lives at risk to bring home the story.

I suspect that were the opinion polls to be more specific about the type of journalist about whom we held an opinion then the answer would be very different.

It is impossible to make comparisons between the "street of shame" tabloid muck-rakers, also legitimate news people, who research and report their own brand of journalism.

But in writing this, I’m thinking of the likes of Alan Johnston, Jeremy Bowen, Orla Guerin, Rageh Omaar, Martin Bell, Robert Fisk, John Pilger, Max Hastings, Jon Snow, the late Gaby Rado, John Simpson, the late Terry Lloyd - killed by "friendly-fire" - and so many others.

This type of journalist is, as the public reaction to Alan Johnston’s kidnapping proved, held in the highest regard and admiration - and without whose sacrifices our liberal democratic world would be under threat. A threat that is so apparent in many countries which claim to enjoy freedom of speech.

(See also Mick Temple's recent blog "Freedom Of The Rest")

Who are the journalists and news organisations we most admire? Leave a comment on the Miscellaneous section of our Message Board.
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