I’M DUE to speak at a Left Unity-Leicestershire meeting about the “media, journalism and freedom of speech”. A ‘tall-order’ you might think. Quite right. I’ve been a ‘practising’ investigative journalist for 30 years or more. Sounds almost like a dubious sexual crime. Believe me, when you work as a foreign correspondent in a ‘conflict’/civil war zone sex is not predominantly on your mind.
Is this the future of journalism? More journalists than ever are being incarcerated, and killed, for doing their job: reporting, to the best of their ability, objectively, what they see and hear.
No side in a civil war/conflict likes journalists. The so-called ‘good guys’ in a conflict may well be also guilty of various crimes. I have seen more mass graves/dead bodies than you can shake your average local funeral director at. I had my own reasons, not to do with any love of danger, to be out there. Let’s leave it that.
“recommend a holiday”
It still surprises me that people think that when they learn that I was a foreign correspondent the assumption is that I was working for some trendy travel magazine. Fat chance! I wouldn’t recommend a holiday in some of the countries I reported from; unless you have a ‘death wish’. Should that be the case there are a number of suitable counselling services available. As dull-as-dishwater possibly but a great deal safer.
A recent report from Reporters Without Borders, “2015 World Press Freedom Index”,1 tells us that the top three ‘good’ countries to work as a journalist were Finland, Norway and Denmark (those bloody ‘do-gooding’ Scandinavians) followed by the Netherlands, Sweden (bloody Scandinavians) and New Zealand. The bottom three were Eritrea, North Korea (Oohh! That was a shock) and Syria. For those of you interested the Russian Federation were placed 152 out of 180 countries.
Reporters Without Borders said, in an explanation of its “methodology” for their report that: “It reflects the degree of freedom that journalists, news media and netizens (Internet citizens) enjoy in each country, and the efforts made by the authorities to respect and ensure respect for this freedom. It should not be seen as an indication of the quality of the media in the countries concerned.”2 ✪
1. “Journalists killed” in the Reporters Without Borders table includes only cases in which Reporters Without Borders has clearly established that the victim was killed because of his/her activities as a journalist. It does not include cases in which the motives were not related to the victim’s work or in which a link has not yet been confirmed.