Today is Memorial Day in the United States, and our thoughts rightly turn to those men and women of our armed forces who gave their lives in service to our country, and in the defense of freedom worldwide. No matter what your opinion may be on the rightness of our military's leadership, or the justice of one cause over another, I urge you to respect and honor their memory; our country, and our ability to hold opinions in conflict with our government, is paid for with their sacrifice.
In many countries around the world, that basic freedom is disallowed, and nowhere is that more evident than in those countries' treatment of journalists. Whether they're credentialed professionals or amateur bloggers attempting to spread truth to their countrymen, they have come in conflict with these governments -- or the warring factions that pass as governments -- at the cost of their lives.
So as you're remembering our fallen troops, consider these journalists, among the 20 killed in action* so far in 2009:
Orel Sambrano, Radio América, ABC, Notitarde, was assassinated by a gunman on a motorcycle on January 16. Sambrano had been under death threats for his coverage of the drug trade in Venezuela. A practicing lawyer as well as a regular newspaper columnist, Sambrano was well-known for investigating government corruption.
Haidar Hashim Suhail and Suhaib Adnan, Al-Baghdadia TV, were both killed on March 10 in Abu Ghraib, Iraq, while interviewing local residents attending a tribal reconciliation gathering. A suicide bomber detonated an explosive vest, killing 33 and wounding at least 50. Four other journalists were among those injured.
Ando Ratovonirina, Radio Télévision Analamanga, was shot and killed while covering an anti-government demonstration in Madagascar's capital city, Antananarivo, on February 7. Government troops fired on the crowd as they marched toward the presidential palace, killing at least 25 and wounding at least 167. Ratovonirina's cameraman escaped unharmed.
Uma Singh, Janakpur Today, Radio Today was attacked in her home by a group of assailants on January 10. She died of multiple stab wounds. While no specific motive has been determined, her murder is considered by most in the region to be connected to her coverage of regional politics; her home was in an area of Nepal wracked with fighting between separatist groups and the hardline United Communist Party of Nepal, which currently controls the government. "If we don't air the news of their choice, they threaten us with killing," Singh said in an interview last year.
Hassan Mayow Hassan, Radio Shabelle and Said Tahlil Ahmed, HornAfrik. Hassan, a radio correspondent, was on his way to a press conference on January 1 when he was stopped by government soldiers. He was accused of collaborating with insurgents, and shot dead on the spot. Hassan had reported many times on the army's harassment of civilians. One month later, Tahlil was on his way to a meeting with militant Islamists who had rejected recent elections when he and several other journalists were shot at by masked gunmen. Tahlil was the only fatality. Ironically, Tahlil had become director of broadcaster HornAfrik after his precedessor was killed by a roadside bomb 18 months earlier.
Gratefully, none of these journalists was an American citizen, nor did any die on American soil. But they each were targeted because they strove to fight injustice, corruption and the degradation of human rights in the face of powerful opposition. Their weapons were microphones, pens and cameras, not rifles or missiles, but their fight was just as crucial and their bravery in every way the equal of any man or woman in uniform. Please give them a due moment of consideration as you remember our own country's heroes today.
*Information cited courtesy of Reporters Without Borders (rsf.org) and the Committee to Protect Journalists (cpj.org). Visit either site for indepth coverage of media oppression worldwide.
If the media is the eye on the world, Russ Carr is the finger in that eye. Tune in each month to see him dispersing the smoke and smashing the mirrors of modern mass communication. The world lost Russ on 2/7/12, but he lives on.
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michelle von euw
5.25.09 @ 10:47a
Excellent column, Russ, and a well-needed reminder that not everyone who fights for freedom does so with traditional weapons.
5.25.09 @ 10:53a
For all the parroting about military troops overseas and praying for their safety, it's worth doing the same in support for journalists- ours, and all other countries' men and women willing to risk their lives to personally see the story for themselves.
It's also great to see that you've written about foreign journalists. Their names probably wouldn't have been introduced to us if you hadn't written about them. Bravo.
5.25.09 @ 4:04p
It's amazing when people forge ahead in pursuit of the truth, no matter the risks or the costs. Thank you for calling attention to their sacrifice.
5.25.09 @ 7:57p
Without journalists what would be the point of freedom of the press?
joe redden tigan
5.26.09 @ 9:54a
The difference between jouranlists and Keith Olbermans.
6.15.09 @ 8:43a
How Iran is handling post-election coverage (courtesy of AP):
Iran's media mostly ignored the protests and international journalists were prevented from covering the demonstrations.
"It's horrific, shameful and paradoxical to what you see on TV," said a Moussavi supporter, who CNN will not identify for safety reasons.
The France-based media rights group Reporters Without Borders said it had confirmed the arrest of four reporters by Iranian authorities, including one who won the organization's press freedom prize in 2001.
In addition, it said, it had no information about 10 other reporters who had either gone into hiding or had been arrested.
Reporters for an Italian station, RAI, and for Reuters were beaten by police in the capital, Tehran. And a CNN producer was hit with a police baton.
Iranian authorities closed Al-Arabiya's Tehran bureau for a week without explanation, the Arabic network said on Sunday. And two reporters were attacked outside Moussavi's headquarters on Friday, according to Reporters Without Borders.
The Web sites of pro-opposition supporters were inaccessible, and the government also had periodically shut down access to social-networking sites, making it difficult for information to reach the outside world.
6.21.09 @ 11:03p
An Iranian photographer for Life magazine has gone missing; a relative reports that he went out this weekend and has not been seen or heard from, since.
View his last essay here: Eyewitness from Tehran's Streets
6.23.09 @ 9:01p
Newsweek reporter taken from his home in Iran: