The Dangerous Trade of Journalism
Posted by jonathanfryer on Wednesday, 20th April, 2011
The death of the Liverpool-born photo-journalist Tim Hetherington (who worked for Vanity Fair inter alia) in a mortar attack in the beseiged city of Misurata, Libya, underlines the perils and bravery of those who go out to report on wars and conflict situations. Though few ever deliberately put themselves in the line of fire, inevitably there are casualties. If reporters and photographers stayed in the background, well away from the fighting, viewers, listeners and readers would not get an accurate picture of what is going on — something essential in a confused situation such as Libya. Having myself covered wars and conflicts in Vietnam, Central America, southern Africa and the Middle East, I know that there are a few colleagues who get a ‘buzz’ from being close to the action. But the vast majority are professionals who just want to get the story or picture out — to let people know what is going on. Far from glorifying war, most of us who have covered it hate war as such, but believe we must show what is happening. I had that conviction as a schoolboy, watching the TV footage coming out of Biafra in the late 1960s. Of course, some things have changed. I don’t ever remember wearing body-armour in Vietnam or El Salvador — the two most dangerous locations I reported from — though I was once offered a gun (sternly refused!). These days, BBC reporters and others wear a statutory bullet proof vest, at least. But there is another change, which is deeply worrying. Until a few years ago, all sides in conflicts usually welcomed journalists, because they wanted their side of the story shown. But increasingly journalists are themselves deliberately targetted in attacks, or else kidnapped, or murdered, as both government and opposition groups try to suppress the free flow of information.