The question, posted on the international journalists’ network IJNet, drew me up short. Wouldn’t carrying a weapon jeopardize a journalist’s neutral status? Couldn’t it put them more at risk, especially in a war zone where a gun could make them appear to be combatants? So why even ask the question? Here’s why:
Following the recent fatal shooting of Russian reporter Anastasia Baburova, who worked for Russia’s liberal opposition newspaper Novaya Gazeta, the paper’s management announced last week it had appealed to Russian authorities to allow its journalists to carry weapons.
News organizations in Mexico and Iraq have made similar requests recently, but it’s not a new issue. This AJR report a few years ago looked at threats against journalists in the Philippines.
So should some journalists, in some situations, be armed? No, says Ron Steinman, former NBC bureau chief in Saigon during the Vietnam War. Wearing a gun, he says, does not protect you from harm, it causes harm.
When reporters carry a weapon, forget the argument of how the subject of your story looks at you when they see you armed. It changes how you cover news. Reporters never want to be part of the story. When you carry you have become a different person.
Sounds about right to me. What about you?