Safety of journalists abroad should not be forgotten

Safety of  journalists abroad should not be forgotten

Michael Bragg

There was a substantial bit of news from Ukraine last week that did not involve Vladimir Putin, Barack Obama or any prominent political figures.

Instead, it was about a journalist. Simon Ostrovsky, a journalist with VICE, was taken hostage earlier last week in eastern Ukraine while covering the ongoing conflict involving Russia and Ukraine, according to Poynter.

Fortunately, he was released after a few days.

The pro-Russian, self-appointed mayor of Sloviansk, Ukraine held Ostrovsky and others – many of whom are still detained. Ostrovsky, who has been covering the conflicts in eastern Ukraine for months, was pulled from his car at a checkpoint – accused of supporting pro-Ukrainian groups – and was beaten, blindfolded and interrogated before he was unexpectedly released.

“After I was released, I found out that the leader of the pro-Russia forces in Sloviansk, Vyacheslav Ponomarev, told journalists that we were being held as ‘bargaining chips’ in negotiations with the interim authorities in Kiev,” Ostrovsky wrote in an account of his detention. “I don’t yet know what he got for my release, but I hope it wasn’t very much, because no one should be allowed to take hostages no matter what their political demands are.”

But Ostrovsky said he had it easy because he was released. Many others are still being held in a cellar that he inhabited for a short time.

And as far as recent misfortunes in the line of international reporting go, Ostrovsky is also incredibly lucky.
Associated Press photographer Anja Niedringhaus was shot and killed in Kabul, Afghanistan, on April 4 by an Afghan policeman while covering the elections, according to the AP. Kathy Gannon, an AP correspondent, was also shot but survived.

“Anja is the 32nd AP staffer to give their life in pursuit of the news since AP was founded in 1846,” AP President Gary Pruitt wrote in a memo to AP staff. “This is a profession of the brave and the passionate, those committed to the mission of bringing to the world information that is fair, accurate and important. Anja Niedringhaus met that definition in every way.”

The Committee to Protect Journalists released a report stating that 70 journalists were killed in the field in 2013. The report also pointed out that 2013 was the second-worst year on record for jailed journalists.

It’s easy to forget that the people who collect and publish the news and images of the Middle East, eastern Ukraine and other parts of the world where conflict is present are in harm’s way.

They may not be trained soldiers and they may not be armed to defend themselves like a soldier, but journalists have an incredibly important role to play in areas of conflict.

Human lives are not bargaining chips, as Ostrovsky wrote, and it’s important that we remember this as more and more journalists enter these highly volatile areas for the sake of letting us know at home what is happening elsewhere in the world.

Michael Bragg, a senior journalism and public relations major from Lillington, is the editor-in-chief.