March 9, 2007:
Media has become a weapon, more so than in the past. As a
result, there are more casualties among journalists. Over the last ten years,
about a thousand journalists have been killed because of their work. The media
critics doing the killing had tried to get the victims to change the content of
their victims reporting. When the victims refused to comply, they were killed.
Sometimes there were an escalating series of warnings (threats, property
damage, beatings, even kidnapping and torture). The trend is getting worse.
There were 147 murdered journalists in 2005, and 167 last year. Most of the
deaths are taking place in a few countries, mainly Iraq, Colombia, Russia and
Mexico. In some cases the government appears to be involved. In many countries,
journalists do not even try to report what the government does not want
reported. In those cases, the government controls the editors and publication
mechanisms (printing plants, and broadcasting facilities.) Those nations that
have the most deaths have governments that encourage, or at least tolerate, press
freedom. In those cases, there are large criminal organizations that feel they
can commit these murders with impunity. The reporters also believe that they
have a good chance of avoiding death.
Another reason for the growing number of journalists is the growing number
of media outlets. There are simply more journalists out there. That produces
intense competition, and a lot more opportunities for journalists to make their
mark. Since the appearance of modern journalism over two centuries ago, it's
been more typical for journalists to take a bribe from someone who wanted
favorable coverage, or to respond to a threat by backing off. But journalists
have become increasingly bold of late. Largely motivated by a desire to get the
truth out there, most of the victims believe they are protected (by their
publisher, or the government), or have not yet crossed the line that would get
Some journalists manage to avoid danger by publishing their work
anonymously. This requires that you have a brave, and tight lipped, editor.
Other journalists have sought safety via Internet anonymity. This has become
popular in police states where there is no opportunity to publish normally. But
even in nations with a free press, and a dangerous publishing environment, the
Internet is seen as the only safe (for the reporter) outlet for some stories.
The main limitation here is that the Internet does not have the large audience
of the traditional print and broadcast media. That is becoming less the case,
year after year, and is likely to be the only refuge for journalists reporting
in a fatally hostile environment.