Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Posts Tagged ‘Marie Colvin’

We Chose to Speak of War and Strife

Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 16th October, 2016

we-chose-to-speak-of-war-and-strifeFew people would call John Simpson, the septuagenarian BBC World Affairs Editor, a shrinking violet. For several years there was even a BBC programme called Simpson’s World and fellow broadcasters like to rib him about the time he “liberated” Kabul in front of the camera. But the ribbing comes mainly from admiration for the solid body of work that Simpson has carried out, not least in dangerous war situations, such as in Baghdad or Sarajevo. He is very much the go-to face to explain conflicts to the viewer, in a way that Kate Adie used to be. His exploits and associated reflections have moreover been covered in a series of books recounting what it is like on the frontline of international news. However, his latest volume (We Chose to Speak of War and Strife, Bloomsbury, £25) is somewhat different, as it is essentially a celebration of the world of foreign correspondents past and present, from Henry Crabb Robinson onwards. Scores of names — many who will be familiar to avid TV viewers and newspaper readers — fill the book’s pages, moving not so much chronologically or geographically but thematically. Chapters have such headings as Journeys, Scoops, Taking Risks and Getting Involved. Some foreign correspondents, such as Martha Gelhorn and Marie Colvin, showed incredible ingenuity as well as bravery, the latter paying for it with her life.

john-simpson Rather a lot of Simpson’s subjects perish in the later chapters, which is partly a reflection of the way that attitudes to correspondents have changed. When I was a cub reporter stringing for the Manchester Evening News during the Vietnam War it never entered my head to wear camouflage or a flak-jacket. Both sides in the conflict wanted their story told and were eager to help. But these days, all too often journalists are themselves targets, either for hostage-taking or gruesome execution, not least by fanatical Islamist groups, if not just ending up as collateral damage on the battlefield. Simpson being Simpson, of course he interjects his own experiences into that of others, sometimes as colleagues, but often in a more editorial fashion. He betrays a certain competitiveness which has indeed characterises much of the relationship between foreign correspondents working for different organisations, but there is also compassion. He has his favourites among colleagues, including Lyse Doucet and Frank Gardner, as well as some by whom he has been less impressed. He rightly laments the fact that even as news outlets and platforms have multiplied in the digital age the resources that are devoted to employing and dispatching foreign correspondents has shrunk substantially. So in a sense one is left with a feeling at the end of this book that it something of a swan-song, not just for John Simpson but also for the profession. That would be a shame, to put it mildly, as there is so much out there in the big bad world that we need to know about. .

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No Woman’s Land

Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 9th March, 2012

To celebrate International Women’s Day and highlight the dangers faced by female journalists, Thomson Reuters hosted a panel discussion at its Canary Wharf headquarters this (Thursday) evening, chaired by my former BBC colleague Lyse Doucet, on behalf of the International News Safety Institute (INSI).The event also served as a book launch for No Woman’s Land, an illustrated collection of essays by women correspondents who have served on the frontline (including Lyse), with a foreword by Lara Logan, the American journalist who was sexually assaulted in Tahrir Square during last year’s tumultuous uprising in Egypt. Before the discussion — which was televised and streamed online — we participants stood in silence as the rollcall of women journalists who had been killed over the past decade was displayed on the screen. Many perished in Iraq and other parts of the Middle East, but other fatal zones included Russia, Mexico and the Philippines. In all, over 1,000 journalists — male and female — have been killed since 2001, 174 last year alone. These days, journalists are often specifically targetted — as happened in Homs in Syria recently, the veteran war correspondent Marie Colvin being one of the casualties. Moreover, as several members of the panel and audience testified, women reporters increasingly find themselves the subject of sexual harrassment as well as intimidation. Yet this evening was by no means one of total gloom, as several female correspondents argued that their sex had not usually been any impediment to being given challenging assignments. And as Lyse Doucet said, while we must remember the fallen, today was also a celebration of the way women have established themselves more forcefully within the labour force and life in general, even if there is still a long way to go in some areas.

The book No Woman’s Land is available through www.newssafety.org priced £20. Proceeds will fund INSI’s safety training for women working in the media

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