Here’s an Internet irony: the Web has made it possible for almost anyone to be a journalist but it’s also made the world more dangerous for anyone practising journalism. For the first time, according to the Committee to Project Journalists, online journalists are the largest group behind bars around the world. And all journalists are threatened, says CPJ’s Joel Simon, because militant groups no longer need journalists to get their message out and they’ve learned they can spread fear by attacking and murdering journalists.
Simon told a conference on Capitol Hill last week that in the past ten years the number of journalists killed in the line of duty has skyrocketed, primarily due to the Iraq war, which he called “the deadliest conflict for journalists in history. War reporting is obviously dangerous, but CPJ says most journalists killed in Iraq did not die in combat; two thirds of them were targeted and murdered.
CPJ and other journalism groups are calling for the passage of the Daniel Pearl Freedom of the Press Act that would require the State Department to report annually on the state of press freedom worldwide and provide grants to strengthen media independence.
In connection with World Press Freedom Day (May 3), it’s important to note that a democratic system of government doesn’t ensure a free press. To the contrary, some of the countries ranked highest on CPJ’s “impunity index,” countries where journalists’ murders go unsolved, are nominally democracies: Russia, Colombia, the Philippines and Pakistan. Just another reminder that a free press should never be taken for granted.