Thursday, May 19, 2005

Journalist as Provocateurs

In the earlier post on Linda Foley, Provocateur, I tried to compile some background and connections on Ms. Foley, partly because this meme about the US military targeting journalists keeps popping through the journalistic noise about the safety and security of journalists in war zones, and debates whether to embed or not, among other discussions.

What has been extremely bothersome is the back and forth nature in the ambiguous, imprecise, and often confused presentation by many in the media and as well as their organizational representatives, Ms. Foley for one, between their concerns, questions, and opinions on the one hand and their subtle and unsupported accusations on the other. It isn't often the unsupported accusations are presented, stripped of all the surrounding ambiguity but it happens and, as we saw with Eason Jordan, it happens in what is thought to be a private atmosphere of friends and like minded colleagues. Clearly, this is the case with Ms. Foley.

But Ms. Foley has also expanded her accusatory catalogue of targeting, linking the intentional weapons targeting (otherwise known as shooting and killing) of journalists in war zones and the verbal and accountability targeting (otherwise known as criticism and holding them to account for their professional behavior) of journalists. Unlike Mr. Jordan, Ms. Foley seems to see almost a conspiracy of targeting -- Republicans, Military and Corporations. Ms. Foley has sipped too much Kool-aid or her tinfoil hat has been on too long and too tight. (Sorry, I had the urge to say it.)

Seriously though, my original title "Linda Foley, Provocateur", is right on, I think -- she said this because she was soliciting (indoctrinating) more of the interested at the Conference while also rallying/energizing supporters. In other venues it is much more subtle and couched within ambiguous deniability verbiage. Such as this one called "To Kill A Meddling Journalist: Why Not? -- It's Risk Free" by Rodney Pinder, Director of the International News Safety Institute of which Linda Foley is an Advisory Board member. Some excerpts:
"The worldwide toll of journalists and critical support staff killed covering the story is spiraling. Last year was the deadliest in at least a decade. So far this year, the International News Safety Institute has recorded 19 members of the news media killed at work in 11 countries, all but two of them murdered and no one brought to justice.

In great swathes of the world, across many countries, murder is a relatively cheap, safe and easy way to censor the press. A probing reporter is silenced and friends and colleagues terrorised. And it will only get worse as long as a culture of impunity protects the guilty. Failure by governments to punish the killers can only encourage others. [...]

"Murderous assaults this year so far include:
Colombia: hit men on motorbikes shoot down popular radio journalist Julio Palacio
Pakistan: gunmen fire into a small bus filled with journalists on their way back from a story, killing Allah Noor and Mir Nawab
Somalia: a sniper kills BBC producer Kate Peyton shortly after she arrives in Mogadishu
Bangladesh: Sheikh Belaluddin, a correspondent for the daily Sangram newspaper, dies of heart failure following the bombing of a press club
Philippines: The body of community newspaper columnist Arnulfo Villanueva, who had been investigating corruption and illegal gambling, is found riddled with bullets
Azerbaijan: Seven bullets rip into Elmar Huseinov, a fierce government critic and editor-in-chief of an opposition magazine

And of course there is Iraq, the bloodiest killing ground for journalists in modern times. INSI has recorded 68 dead journalists and other news media workers since the conflict began two years ago, four of them this year. Most were Iraqis experiencing the first fruits of press "freedom" after the Saddam dictatorship; the rest came from 15 other countries. No one thus far has been held to account for a single death.

In a chorus of concern that underscores their anger and frustration, the IFJ, WAN, IPI and CPJ in recent months have all stepped up their attacks on the thriving culture of impunity.

The IFJ called for more concerted action by political and civil society groups. "Too often governments display a heartless and cruel indifference to the suffering endured by the victims and their families," said General Secretary Aidan White. "There tends to be a few meaningless words of regret, a cursory inquiry and a shrug of indifference." [...]

"The IPI said one common thread linked the deaths of journalists in countries as diverse as Bangladesh, Belarus, Haiti, The Gambia, Mexico, the Philippines, the Ukraine and many others. "Their shameful connection is the authorities' failure to properly investigate and prosecute the killers," said Director Johann Fritz." [...]

"They can publicise each and every attack and - critically - sustain the pressure until results are achieved. In this regard, global news organisations can help local outlets who have fewer resources and are more at risk. With few exceptions, the news giants tend to take notice only when international journalists are targeted, whereas the vast majority of victims are locals covering the countries of their birth. Press groups and journalists can investigate and publicise - and refuse to let go until there is a resolution."
I haven't had the time to search for the four incidents in Iraq that Mr. Pinder might be referring to but there was at least one listed for 2005 at the end of this pdf listing of 14 that IFJ sees as not justified, investigated satifactorily, and people held accountable for. It leaves me wondering if any effort to find answers regarding these incidents will be satisfactory if it doesn't include the prosecution of those in the US military that were involved.

Now don't misunderstand me, I do sympathize, and support these organizations and the media in their efforts to report in these difficult and dangerous places, whether war zones or the center of tyrannies. And I am concerned with their safety. My complaint and the reason for this and the earlier post is that there does not seem to be any effort by the likes of Ms. Foley, Mr. Pindar, or Aidan White to categorize, substantiate, or differentiate. They just lump those journalists killed after being kidnapped and used for bargaining chips with those journalists killed because they were caught in a crossfire of a firefight between US forces and insurgents. It's irresponsible on their part (Foley, Pindar, & Aidan) to not make these distinctions and only serves to put themselves in a position of disrepute.

And when Ms. Foley makes blatantly false accusations, she is doubly failing in her responsibility as a journalist or reporter or union negotiator or whichever cap she's wearing at the time -- to both the public and the journalists she represents. Those failings should not be "risk free", they should have serious consequences.


Linda Foley Related Posts:
(Reverse Chronological Order)
Looking Ahead: Military in the Cross-Hairs
"Media credibility is in the toilet, even if the Koran isn't."
Linda Foley's Context and Asides - A Comparison
Still Holding To "Context" But. Where's "Aside"?
More of Linda Foley's Talk
Journalist as Provocateurs
Linda Foley, Provocateur


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