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Conflict Zone: Journalists killing is latest in bloody trend

India TV News Desk 22 Aug 2014, 7:56:14 AM IST
India TV News Desk
New Delhi: From arrests to beheadings, conflict reporting takes harsh toll on journalists and the murder of James Foley is the latest in a long, bloody trend.

He was forced to read propaganda celebrating the extremists cause, and then beheaded him. Another American journalist is next, they warned.

For journalists, it's impossible to ignore the echoes of the killing of Daniel Pearl, the Wall Street Journal reporter executed in Pakistan in 2002.

Pearl and Foley were almost the same age when they died. Both were working for American news outlets. Both were captured by Islamist extremists and had video recordings of their executions released.

Perhaps the most grim similarity of all, however, is the horrific way both men were killed. Foley, like Pearl, was beheaded.

Journalist kidnappings have been on the rise since the invasion of Iraq. In Iran, Jason Rezaian, a reporter for The Washington Post, was snatched by men waving an arrest warrant in late July. He has not been heard from since.

In Afghanistan, Matthew Rosenberg, a reporter for The New York Times, was ordered expelled from the country because government officials did not like his stories.

Reporter Jill Carroll spent 82 days as a hostage of Sunni militants. Stephen Farrell was kidnapped three separate times. David Rhode escaped Taliban captivity after more than seven months.
It can be difficult to figure out exactly how many journalists have been kidnapped in recent years.

The rights of journalists in law are ambiguous. Journalists have no special rights, and any journalists who enter a combat zone — like all other civilians — have no right to special protection.

The only formal limits under the laws are that civilians cannot be deliberately targeted. This does not protect civilians from suppressive fire, collateral damage, or in any other way.

Another part of the problem: major media organizations have closed foreign bureaus and become reliant on freelancers as cheap alternatives.

Without the backing of major media organizations, these freelancers tend to be at even more risk — especially if they and their families happen to live in the country where the conflict is taking place.

The kidnapping of journalists is not as much of an issue in Iraq anymore. The uneasy truce between Sunni and Shiite in the country has provided some safety for reporters.

The practice of kidnapping reporters has only grown in the past few years, particularly in Syria and Ukraine.

The question no one has yet answered is whether this makes any journalist who knowingly accepts such a role a legitimate target.

The answer, according to past laws of war, would seem to be yes. The answer, according to journalists, is almost certain to be no.