War on Words: Who Should Protect Journalists?

War on Words: Who Should Protect Journalists?

War on Words: Who Should Protect Journalists?

War on Words: Who Should Protect Journalists?


This unprecedented book provides a comprehensive examination of the issue of protecting journalists in conflict situations from both a practical and humanitarian law perspective.

Violent criminals and corrupt governmental officials harass, co-opt, and kill local and foreign journalists in countries from Mexico to Afghanistan, to Russia and the Philippines. Staggeringly, there has been little or no prosecution in 89 percent of journalist murders worldwide. Such widespread impunity is arguably one of the greatest threats to press freedom. A number of international organizations and advocates have developed efforts to mitigate this problem, but belligerents continue to act with few restraints and little, if any, accountability.

War on Words: Who Should Protect Journalists? is an examination of the deteriorating and dangerous environment facing journalists and what stakeholders are doing to address this serious problem threatening democracy worldwide. The authors explore the peril facing journalists, delve into the legal and practical history of press protection, evaluate current safety strategies for journalists, and gather opinions from an array of local and international correspondents and practitioners on how to improve this untenable situation.


I have been in this great profession for more than 45 years. First in newspapers, then at the BBC, at CNN, and now at Thomson Reuters. When I started at the BBC in London the war correspondent was considered the pinnacle of journalism. Each new incumbent carried the company credit cards as medals of honour, demonstrable evidence that he or she had finally arrived at the top.

But times have changed. In the past ten years well over a thousand of my colleagues and those who work with them have died; killed or murdered while trying to do their jobs. Thousands more have been injured, harassed, intimidated, or traumatized by those who see us either as virtual combatants or unwelcome extensions of governments prosecuting war and conflict. Or obstacles. Or simply irritants to be silenced.

This is the price we pay for our work in the twenty-first century.

For the last seven years I have had the privilege of being the honorary President of the International News Safety Institute (INSI) which was established in 2003, shortly after the dreadful execution in Pakistan of the eminent war correspondent Daniel Pearl, while working for the Wall Street Journal. INSI’s simple mission is to promote the best safety practices in news coverage including journalists’ training, operational procedures, equipment provision, and health issues; its formation coincides with the worst period in history for the reporting profession.

Simply put, we are now at war with those in the world who are either trying to stop the work we do or distort the honest and balanced reporting that most of us aspire to.

So what has gone wrong in the past decade?

War reporting has always been inherently unsafe. Journalists have always died in war, usually caught in the crossfire, frequently been in the wrong place at the wrong time, or died in accidents. But the attrition rate has never been higher than now.

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