Monday, 21 April 2008

killed in the line of duty

yet again, the really good stuff is screened late at night. last night, i watched veronica guerin, the film about the irish journalist killed after exposing irish drug lords. it was a powerful film, and very sad.

reminded me of another journalist working for reuters, killed in the line of duty in gaza last week. and the aljazeera journalist and other independent journalists killed during the iraq war. in fact, the committee to protect journalists reports that 685 journalists have been killed between 1 january 1992 and 4 april 2008.

i was pondering over why it would matter more when a journalist was killed than any other person. every life has value, and every one has given something or has some potential that should be equally mourned. can we say that the value of a journalist is more than that of a medical specialist or a child or a mother or any other person? probably not.

yet the killing of a journalist is chilling, because of the wider implications. it's like the killing of free speech, or the suppression of truth. the journalist is there to provide us with a true picture of what's happening; independent, without fear or favour. needless to say that there are many who don't live up to that standard. but the ones who walk into danger zones, determined that the truth be brought to the rest of the world, show a special form of courage.

by providing us with the truth, they alter our perceptions and thereby create political pressure for change. in current times, when the truth is so often massaged with spin, when journalists are underpaid and/or under pressure to simply regurgitate press releases, people like veronica guerin are even more valuable.

after watching what happened to her, the herald headline last year announcing the death of democracy seems nothing less than obscene. perhaps some of their editorial staff need to have a good look at what's happening around the world, and have a good think about their continued and unhampered ability to crusade against the EFA. it's a potent reminder of just how lucky we are in this country. democracy is alive and kicking, and journalists' lives are not in any danger.

i just hope that there will be others to take up the pen, to carry on the work of those journalists killed in the line of duty. it's easy to say, sitting here in the safety of my suburban home, wanting others to put themselves at risk while i take none. yet i can't bear to live in a world where such people no longer exist. all i can offer them are my prayers, and my heartfelt gratitude for the work that they do.

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