In the last couple of days, many international news medias gave preference to the figures about journalists killed during 2010 released by Reporters Sans Frontières. According to RSF, 57 journalists died which prompted sighs of relief all around and misguided headlines such as “Fewer journalists killed in 2010”. The IFJ released the figure of 97 killed journalists – almost double the RSF figure – a number verified and agreed by the International News Safety Institute, the global safety organisation. Although it is true that fewer journalists died than last year, down from 139, it still remains open season for killing journalists, fuelled by a rampant culture of impunity.
However, the higher IFJ figure did not fit into the story and was not much used by editors. But seeing it just as an issue of conflicting numbers, plucking the smaller number to justify a feel-good story, ends up masking crucial issues. Neither RSF nor the stories they inspire confront the real issues as to why journalists continue to be targeted. It is left to organisations like the IFJ to analyse the new trends, find explanations and most importantly tackle the employers and governments that are not doing enough to protect journalists.
Thanks to our lobbying work, our profession has made great strides in safety awareness. And as organisations of journalists, we are best placed to lead debates on how our members should balance the risks and rewards when going for a story. We will continue to argue with employers to give priority to the free safety training of their journalists, and work with INSI to provide training to those who need it most. We will also continue to argue with our members that no story is worth dying for. None of this matters to commentators when they decide that the only angle is that “things are getting better”.