Rabu, 2 Mac 2011

Journalist Under Threat

Journalists Under Threat
Journalists are the people who stand in the front line protecting humanity from tyranny. And yet, for carrying such honorable duty they dare to risk their lives in hunting for truths and defending them from evil forces.

 “Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth.” 

This is one of my many favorite quotes from Thoreau. This relates to the stories of hundreds unfortunates journalists who took their lives in their own hands to uncover the truth that lies beneath in the midst of our corrupt and unstable lives. For most of us, these are the people that we hope can help bring justice to the oppressed. But for some, journalists aren’t always welcomed and their work isn’t always appreciated. They were deliberately targeted and have been victimized for simply doing their jobs.

Heroes across the globe
Somewhere in 2007 in Middle America, a Mexican journalist and human rights defender Lydia Cacho was targeted as the subject of an assassination attempt by unknown figures.

In 2009, she was reported to have received several death threats in her blog warning that she ‘soon will appear decapitated’. All of the threats she received was due to her exposures on domestic violence and child prostitution. Due to her noble efforts in protecting the rights of women and children, she was crowned as IPI World Press Freedom Hero in April 2010.

A Somali-born BBC reporter doing coverage in Mogadishu, Mohamed Olad Hassan has survived many threats and none of the risks he faced have stopped his aim to report the truth about oppression in Somalia to the world.

In quoting his words from an interview made with Journalism UK, he said “What makes me continue my job is that I don't want to let the criminals repress the media in my country, so that they are able to continue to torment my people in front of the rest of the world and go unreported - what motivates me is to be a voice for the voiceless and keep my fight for freedom and to see Somalia one day returning to peace.”

Such enormous commitment and genuine sincerity in human can rarely be seen these days and for that, in early June 2010, he received the Speaker Abbot Award for showing outstanding courage in the pursuit of journalism.

Unsung Heroes
Whereas in other parts of the world unlike Lydia and Mohamed who were lucky to have survived the dangers, some journalists were terribly unfortunate. Just like Atwar Bahjat, an Iraqi-born broadcast journalist from Al-Arabiya tv station. She was out witnessing an attack at a mosque in Samarra with her cameraman. Few minutes later she and her crew were abducted by armed men driving a white car and were brutally murdered.

Mohammad Davari from Iran, the editor-in-chief for Saham News received the same fate too for exposing horrific abuse at the Kahrizak Detention Centre in 2009. His report sparked public uproar, luckily he wasn’t murdered. Now he is in solitary confinement, not allowed to have contact with his family for more than eight months.

In another incident in late 2009, 57 victims were shot to death during a clash in Maguindanao horrendous massacre.  30 of them were Filipino journalists.

Journalists’ death toll
All over the world, journalists are being tortured, killed, detained and taken hostages. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) a nonprofit organization based in New York, their death watch has recorded a total number of 850 journalists worldwide killed since 1992.

Out of all the total cases, 268 of them were print journalists, and the rest was broadcast journalists, editors and photographers. When divided into genders, most of the media workers murdered were males.

39 percent of the victims died for exposing political conspiracies, followed by 34 percent who got killed while covering war in conflict zones, and 21 percent died for prying into corruptions.

Iraq, as one of the most deadly countries for journalists recorded the highest number of journalists killed in 2006, mostly died as a result of crossfire but some of the journalists killed were reported to have been specifically targeted.

So far this year, 7 journalists were killed and one of the most recent deaths was from Egypt. Ahmad Mohamed Mahmoud, a journalist for Al-Ta’awun was shot by sniper fire from his balcony while he was photographing anti-Mubarak demos in Tahrir square on January 28. A week later on February 4, he died.

Malaysian Truth-Seekers
The late famous Indonesian student activist who fought against the Soekarno regime, Soe Hok Gie once said “it seems like we glorify democracy but we cut the tongues of the people who have the guts to uphold and bring forward their opinion open in the public”.

This is the situation faced by Malaysian journalists. Nevertheless in all cases, most of our journalists have only faced imprisonment or being detained under the Internal Security Act. Local journalism sphere is not as bad compared to our nearest neighbor, Indonesia.

According to one case reported by the UNHCR in 2008, a correspondent for Malaysiakini, Syed Jaymal was arrested while he was covering demonstrators protesting high food costs in Kuala Lumpur. While in custody, he was punched, pushed and pulled by the hair by the police.

In June 2010, the attack of Mavi Marmara flotilla by Israeli forces shocked the whole world.  Two media workers from Astro Awani, broadcast journalist Ashwad Ismail and his cameraman, Shamsul Kamal Abdul Latip were among those detained. Both of them and other detainees were humiliated and treated like criminals but Ashwad said, 

“Despite the bitter experience, I am determined to carry on creating awareness in the world community towards the atrocities of the Israeli regime”.

These are only a few stories of heroic deeds from bravehearts all across the continent.  Their deaths shall not be in vain, they deserve justice. But does pausing for a moment of silence honoring journalists all over the world who had lost their lives on World Press Freedom Day every May 3 do much justice to these victims? Probably not much in giving a loud warning to those who seek to silent the press. As they say, journalism is the lifeblood of democracy.

Any attempts to silence them just won’t work. Harass them, scare them with death threats. They know they are vulnerable to an awful fate for  putting their lives in danger in the first place but they take satisfaction for exposing malfeasance, so come what may.  For every unforgivable death, many more will rise to continue exposing things that the whole world deserves to know, and they will speak the truth louder than ever.

Again I’m quoting what Gie has said but rather this time I would prefer to quote his words in its original language. He said, “Saya tak mau jadi pohon bambu, saya mau jadi pohon oak yang berani menentang angin”. His word sends shiver down my spine every time I read it. And I guess no doubt that this kind of enthusiasm resides in every soul of these true warriors. What they did will surely last in history and their names will echo through the ages.

 “But don’t wait for the world to reach you. You are the aware ones. Reach out. Reach out. Reach out with love”. – John Lennon

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