Friday, April 27, 2007

Honoring our journalism heroes

Next Thursday is the 17th Annual World Press Freedom Day. Reporters Without Borders, a non-profit dedicating to helping investigating, exposing and protecting human rights violations against journalists, is commemorating the day in a number of ways. It will be publishing a list of "predators," men and women who directly attack journalists or instruct others to do so. This year's list will reportedly includethe president of Laos and Azerbajian along with members of Mexican drug cartels who killed journalists.

It will also be dedicating a journalist's memorial in France, which will include the names of the 1,889 journalists killed since 1944.

I had no idea a day like this even existed and that groups like Reporters Without Borders exist. I really feel like I take freedom of the press in our country for granted. Freedom of the press in America is why I can walk down the street and start filming, it’s why people give me permission to enter into their lives and capture their most intimate thoughts, and it’s why I can ask government officials the tough questions and then go home and not worried about being harmed.

The number of journalists killed or imprisoned this year alone is shocking. 23 journalists and five media assistants have been killed. 124 journalists and four media assistants have been imprisoned this year. And, there are 13 journalists currently being held hostage in various countries.

I cannot express how horrible these numbers are. These are the people traveling the world and asking the tough questions. They are examining drug corruption and reporting on wars. They are standing up for the people with no voice, and they are facing death for pursuing such a noble cause. These people are so dedicated to human rights and are truly fulfilling the tenets of journalism by traveling to these places and asking the tough questions.

Should I feel guilty, as a journalist, that I'm nowhere near as courageous as them?

When I hear about reporters traveling to dangerous situations, I always ask the same question..."how can they stand to voluntarily put their life on the line like that?" I imagine how much their families and loved ones must be suffering as they worry about them. I feel so guilty and wrong for thinking that. It makes me feel like a lesser journalist than these people when I admit to myself that I probably would never want to travel to a war zone.

Any journalist that goes to Iraq or goes to any dangerous situation is a hero in my book. Anyone who who potentially sacrifices their life for a story in these places deserve way more than a day to be remembered.


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