A third staffer for Reuters was killed this week. According to The Committee to Protect Journalists in New York an estimated 149 reporters and media assistants have been killed since 2003.
Conflict journalism has become a dangerous occupation. Media no longer enjoy the battlefield immunity that protected it in the past. Western journalists are not considered “journalists” by the insurgents, but rather as high profile westerners who are lucrative and often easy targets for kidnapping and assassination. Freelance journalists need to consider this before venturing into a combat zone such as Iraq without extensive support.
A media friend of mine spoke to me about an email that he received the other day from an aspiring journalist who wishes to come to Iraq to cover the conflict. My friend told me that this was often typical of young journalists that believe they need to cover a conflict zone in order to build up their personal media credentials. This particular young guy intended on arriving in Iraq with no support at all; just show up and figure it out.
Even the most austere journalists here work with support. They hire local fixers, translators, and drivers. Most have their own bodyarmor, medical kit, communications, and move around secretly in armored vehicles. They hire stringers to shoot in places that they cannot get to, and live in secure areas often under the security of a hosting organization.
Iraq is a dangerous place, much more so than it used to be. Everyone’s movements are highly restricted. You can’t just jump in a cab or hire a car to take you up to Tikrit or down to Basrah. Journalists have to understand that there are large groups of people out there that are literally hunting them, and they are very good at it.