War forms of journalism but covering a war

War reporting is one of the most dangerous forms of
journalism but covering a war is also one of the most successful outlets for journalism. War
reporters put their lives into danger in order to accomplish the assignment and
actually inform the public, because this is the main purpose of their jobs.

Their job is to tell the story, not to become the story.

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Nowadays the safety of journalists is an issue of global
concern and their deaths an almost everyday hazard considering the most recent
attacks by terrorist groups and the numerous war-torn areas. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists
(CPJ), a total of 1262 journalists were killed since 1992, in which 526 were
killed in the warzone. In addition, the three deadliest countries of 2017 this
year includes Iraq, Syria and Mexico. (Committee to Protect Journalist site)

 

War correspondents, reporters and journalists require the appropriate
skills, special equipment and of course experience to cover war-torn areas. For
instance, extensive training before war, body armor, health insurance, prepared
first-aid kits and also their knowledge and sensitivity regarding geographic
hot spots.

 

In my term paper, I would briefly want to examine on how (embed) reporters
cover war and conflict, then analyze mainly what is being
done to protect journalists in conflict areas – what they are prepared to
do and what kind of trainings they get in order to ensure their safety as an
individual before they are assigned duty to report in war zones.

Therefore, I have chosen to analyze on one of the
guidebooks regarding the safety of journalists and correspondents in the
warzone – A Guide to Reporting in
Dangerous Situations by the Committee to Protect Journalists. (On Assignment :
A Guide to Reporting in Dangerous Situations, 2004)

 

By the end of the paper, a short case study will be analyzed on war
correspondents such as James Foley and Steven Sotloff as experienced freelance journalists
working in the warzone and how their deaths made an impact in war reporting.

 

Criticism on “embedded
journalists” covering a war or conflict  

 

With advanced technology over the years, much has
changed in the world of war correspondence. From satellite telephones to other
technologies that has greatly increased the number of journalists and reporters
covering conflicts while intensifying the competitive pressures that can push
them to take unwarranted risks. The rise of “embedding” journalists is now the
standard method for reporting conflicts.

 

Back in the day, “Embedding” or placing journalists
with troops in wartime was coined by U.S. Defense department officials in 2002,
this practice is as old as the earliest war correspondents. Journalists enjoyed
more autonomy during the Korean War, although it was not until the times of the
Vietnam War that many correspondents were able to file without censorship. It
changed remarkably with subsequent conflicts U.S. officials, along with their
local allies, that tried to keep journalists from the fighting in Grenada, El
Salvador, Panama, the 1991 GulfWar, and Afghanistan. Since the 1990s, Russian
officials excluded journalist from combat zones and now more recently,
correspondents have been excluded from war zones in Liberia, Nepal, East Timor
and other more.

 

During the 2003 war in Iraq, U.S. officials changed the
policy. More than 800 journalists including correspondents reporting in English
and Arabic had been embedded with either U.S. or U.K. forces. Right before the
war started, the Defense Department offered journalists a week of military
training with U.S. forces free of charge.

 

War reporting is easy to do, but difficult to do well
– what makes a good story might not be the right story. Embedded journalists
develop oversimplified ideas about what the story is. Viewers and readers
expect drama from conflict and think they know what it looks like. The first
pictures from the wars in Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003 were dominated
by shots of great gouts of fire rising from missiles exploding in Baghdad and
Kabul.

 

Much of the best reporting of conflicts has been done
by experienced reporters who knew Iraq before the year 2004. After that, it was
a challenge for young correspondents to have any sort of “learning
curve” because anybody hoping to “learn from their mistakes” in
Iraq was not going to live very long. The safe place to send young reporters,
who haven’t been to Iraq before, is on ’embeds’, unfortunately, these young and
unexperienced correspondents tend to “drink up” everything the army tells them
and report it as fact. (Embedded journalism: A distorted view of war, 2010)

 

An advantage of embedding is that journalists working
in the warzone is able to get firsthand, front-line view of armed forces in
action, but to be able to cover that single part of the story is the
disadvantages it brings, meaning the correspondent’s reporting can become a
one-sided resulting of becoming too close to the soldiers; being mistaken for
combatants is also one of the risks of embedded journalists, especially for
those wearing military uniforms, they have the risks of being injured or killed
during hostiles. ( On Assignment : A
Guide to Reporting in Dangerous Situations, 2004)

 

In addition, for the
sake of the protection of journalists, reporters and correspondents  themselves should not engage in participatory
behavior on the battlefield as this can put them and their colleagues in
danger. They must be mindful at all times in terms of their behavior, language
and attitude towards combatants. No matter they are being embedded with
military forces or travelling independently, they should be only playing the
role of the observer, never represent themselves as something other than what
they are. (On Assignment: A Guide to
Reporting in Dangerous Situations, 2004)

Training itself cannot
guarantee survival in the war zone  

 

There are a
number of handbook and guidelines that are tailor made to correspondents,
reporters and journalists aiming to prevent the risks and danger they encounter
in the warzone, however it can never guarantee their full safety in any given
situation.

 

A Guide to Reporting in
Dangerous Situations by the Committee to Protect Journalists. (On Assignment :
A Guide to Reporting in Dangerous Situations, 2004) reported from the CPJ provides
an overview of security issues and includes information on training courses,
protective equipment and insurance policies. It also offer useful tips on assessing
and managing risks.

 

In CPJ’s report guideline, “Hostile-environment
training” is one of the many training courses that is considered most important
for reporters and journalists to learn how to protect themselves from danger in
the war zone.

 

With analysis and comparison of the various trainings provided
to war correspondents, reporters and journalists, the common focus is mainly to
raise their awareness skills when they are being send to the war zone. For
instance, journalists and correspondents learns how to listen for the
trajectory of bullets to evaluate the thickness of a brick wall or cement; to
filter sediment from filthy water, and to as well locate a safe place to stand
when covering street demonstrations. (On
Assignment : A Guide to Reporting in Dangerous Situations, 2004)

 

A majority of these training courses provided to
journalists, reporters and correspondents also includes extensive training in
emergency first aid, which is considered as the most fundamental and crucial knowledge
each and every one of them should be equipped of. Such comprehensive programs
usually lasts for five days.

 

According to research from background and feedbacks on
various trainings, it is concluded that many who finish the week-long training
session find it extremely helpful and valuable.

There were overwhelming consensus among international
broadcasters and many leading newspapers with regard to the value of the
training courses. Very experienced war correspondents also learn much from
these training courses, which are mostly taught by a former military personnel.

Unfortunately, even for those who are well experienced that receives the best
training cannot guarantee survival in the war zone.

 

One example illustrating that trainings itself cannot ensure
the safety of one is the death of experienced agency journalists Kurt Schork of
Reuters and Miguel Gil Moreno de Mora of Associated Press Television News, they
were described by their co-workers as savvy and careful in combat situations. Schork
has completed the “hostile- environment training”, but the unexpected attack
gave neither correspondent the opportunity to use their knowledge and skills
learnt.

 

Chris Cramer, the president of CNN International who
is credited with making safety training courses mandatory at BBC News, singled
out NPR for refusing to sign a code of practice with regards to safety training
that was agreed to by other major news organizations including Reuters, The
Associated Press, CNN, BBC, ITN, CBC and the big three American networks.

 

Impact on the
deaths of war correspondents

 

James Foley and Steven Sotloff are both freelancer
journalists that have been experienced working in warzones, sadly ,both died
due to the nature of their job.

The death of freelancer James Foley shocked community
members, the video of his execution was released on the Internet and it felt
that conflict from overseas had been brought home at that time. The videos caused
serious upset in the West, AFP and other media decided to stop sending
freelancers for war coverage though they will still accept stringers’ work.

 

His death was remembered by many as a passionate
journalist in the warzone who truly cared about people as he took big risks to
provide news coverage in conflict zones such as Libya and Syria, seeking the
truth and giving a voice to people who were suffering.

 

The James W. Foley Legacy foundation was established
for the remark of his death. ” All American hostages will return home and
conflict journalists who bring truth to light, like Jim, will be valued and
protected.” (James W. Foley Legacy Foundation website) Its mission is to
advocate for the safe return of all Americans detained abroad, to protect
independent conflict journalists and to educate regarding these threats to our
freedom.  

 

Steven Sotloff had the same fate in 2014 and was
killed after being held captive for more than a year in Syria. His death offers
a glimpse of the American connection to the unthinkable tragedy unfolding in
the Middle East. Sotloff’s death reflects that conflict photographer and
journalists lay their lives on the line every day, and the lack of experience
and training is an unacceptable liability when you are working in the world’s
most dangerous warzone. (Journalist Blames Photographer’s Reckless Behavior for
the Kidnapping of Freelancer Steven Sotloff, 2014)

 

Many Western media outlets rely on freelancers and
fixers in foreign countries to report in arranging interviews and providing
general local information. Even when it comes to a point that local freelancers
and fixers are paid a decent rate, they still don’t enjoy the same benefits as other
correspondents. Media companies and international news organizations should
recognize their responsibility to freelancers and stringers covering conflicts
and should provide them with coverage equivalent to staff correspondents.

——-

“Always, constantly, constantly, every minute, weigh
the benefits against the risks. And as soon as you come to the point where you
feel uncomfortable with that equation, get out, go, leave it. It’s not worth
it. There is no story worth getting killed for.” said Terry Anderson, CPJ
honorary co-chairman and former Associated Press Beirut bureau chief, who was
held hostage for nearly seven years in Lebanon.

 

Beyond preparing journalists, reporters and
correspondents for war zones and caring for them after they return, the
journalistic community should also strengthen their role to act collectively in
a far more aggressive fashion to pursue any government, regime, or military
group that harms a journalist. By doing this, it can deploy prominent
journalists, international criminal law experts, and human rights activists to
investigate the unsolved murders of journalists – Aiming to bring the killers
of journalists to justice and end feelings of impunity. Also, to help achieve
closure of the families of dead journalists, reporters and correspondents by
making them feel that their loved ones did not die in vain.