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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Freedom of press at the cost of your life

If you are as curious as most journalists, you would not mind going into the most dangerous areas of the world — Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, etc. Whether you are motivated by curiosity, wanting to give people in the conflict a voice, or warning the world about dangerous diseases like Ebola, your purpose does not guarantee your safety or that freedom of press you were promised by the constitution.

Every year there are dozens of journalists killed, but so far there have been no measures taken to make reporting safe. In addition, there are many journalists who have been pulled out of a mission because of what they reported — in other words, because their stories did not match what the news channels wanted people to know. Just this year alone, around 54 journalists were reported killed by the Committee to Protect Journalists.

The best-known example to many of us was James Foley, who was kidnapped and two years later beheaded by the militants of Islamic State of Iraq and Levant. ISIL is an unrecognized extremist Islamic state in Iraq and the Middle East. The state released footage of Foley’s decapitation in which they also explained that the beheading was a response to American airstrikes on Iraq. There had been attempts to free Foley, but because of the United States’ belief when it comes to negotiating with terrorists, Foley’s family, as well as many Americans, believe that not enough was done to rescue him.

Another more recent case of a journalist being killed, in what is assumed to be a car crash, is of a Lebanese-American reporter for Iran’s Press TV. She was sent to report on the Turkish border across the Kobani region on the war between ISIL militants and Kurdish fighters.

A day after the Turkish National Intelligence Agency searched her room and accused her of spying, she was killed in a car accident. Many could argue that it is just a conspiracy theory to believe that her death was not an accident. However, that would not explain why the driver of the truck that collided with the car disappeared right after the accident. In addition, the Turkish government did not comment or claim to be searching for that driver.

Situations like these could be prevented if journalists were offered protection. Perhaps bodyguards who would be with them everywhere and would be allowed to carry a weapon. The same solution could apply to Foley’s incident, which is more common for reporters. In most of the cases, journalists get kidnapped and then killed; this is preventable with reliable security. There should be laws that would allow these bodyguards to carry weapons but only use them in reasonable situations. The legality of that could be a problem; however, in the region where there is war, it is almost guaranteed that many people own illegal weapons, which is why carrying a weapon for security reasons should be legal. In addition, I suggest that there should be a budget in the media industry specifically to fund this protection program for journalists. This could save news agencies about a million dollars that they spend on trying to rescue the reporters after they were kidnapped, like in the case of Foley, and not jeopardize the lives of the journalists.

In addition, when it comes to reporting, one has to be very careful with how one reports and what story one tells. For example, in the summer of 2014, NBC journalist Ayman Mohyeldin was pulled out of Gaza after he witnessed four innocent boys being killed on the beach. One might think, why pull out a journalist who actually witnessed the event and could probably report on it better than any other reporter? NBC’s answer to this question was that Mohyeldin’s safety was at risk. However, this would not explain why the network sent the chief correspondent Richard Engel to cover the story instead.

It does not make any logical sense why a person who looks American and is not as experienced in reporting from Gaza would be safer than somebody who blends in with the crowd, knows the culture and mentality of Gazans, and has witnessed the attack himself. Claims about Western media taking sides when it comes to Israeli-Palestinian conflict are not new; however, the examples of Ayman Mohyeldin and Diana Magnay prove those claims to be true. Magnay is a CNN reporter who was pulled out of Israel and sent to Moscow, right after she reported about Israelis cheering as missiles hit Gaza.

As Americans, we are promised freedom of press. However, as we see from these examples, only a part of the reporting gets that freedom, and it is usually the part that fits the story of that news agency’s sponsors. Journalism is possibly one of the most important fields of work in the world, but it is also the one that gets the least attention when it comes to safety and freedom.

Many do not consider journalism a serious job. It appears that reporters are considered not be worthy of protection because people think, “Hey! They knew it was dangerous there. Why did they go there anyways?”

But the role of journalism cannot be understated. Without dedicated journalism people would be unaware of the rise of terrorist organizations, the spread of diseases, and killers on the loose in their cities. Journalism contributes a great deal to the safety of society, but when it comes to the protection of journalists, society doesn’t seem to care.