By Lynn Ashby 25 Jan. 2016
Good news! Last year at least 69 journalists were killed around the world in the line of duty. I think we can all give thanks that those nosey commies intent on destroying all that is good and noble in society are no longer around to ply their odious trade. This fatal figure comes from the Committee to Protect Journalists, which each year tallies up the number of journalists who were shot, blown up, tortured to death or forced to over-indulge in martinis at the Press Club bar. I know of no other civilian calling that keeps an annual total of its members who have been killed while pursuing their profession – or, for matter, any other group that needs to. Do you recall the AMA or the NBA running a fatal total of its colleagues?
As we might expect, most of the dead deliverers of dastardly details (I’m channeling Spiro Agnew) met their deserved desserts in Syria, Iraq and France. Huh? Yes, France, where Muslim militants killed eight staff members at the Charlie Hebdo satirical newspaper in January of last year. If you’re a journalist, you don’t have to be in a foxhole outside Baghdad to get bumped off. You could be sitting around a conference table in downtown Paris to have your meeting interrupted by some angry gun-wielding readers. Frankly, I prefer obscene, anonymous e-mails, but it does give a whole new meaning the journalistic term “deadline.”
You will be delighted to know that 69 number may grow. The committee reports it is still investigating the deaths of 26 other journalists to determine if the deaths were related to their work. In addition, in the Middle East, the group said, it “received reports of dozens more journalists killed, but is unable to independently confirm that the individuals have in fact died, and if so, whether journalist work was the reason.” By the numbers, Syria again was the deadliest place for journalists, though sadly the number of deaths there in 2015 — 13 — was lower than in previous years. France, sustaining its Charlie Hebdo massacre, was second with eight. Five journalists were killed in each of four countries: Bangladesh, Iraq, South Sudan and Yemen. Three were murdered while they were at work. Remember the two TV staffers, reporter Alison Parker and video-journalist Adam Ward, of Roanoke, Va., TV station WDBJ, who were fatally shot during an interview by a former co-worker.
In Brazil, Gleydson Carvalho, a radio broadcaster who often criticized local cops and politicians for purported wrongdoing, was shot and killed while presenting his afternoon radio show. That was six killings in Brazil last year — the highest it has recorded there. Attention journalists headed for Rio to cover the Sumer Olympics, be sure to say how great the Brazilian athletes are, otherwise you may win the Lead Medal. American-Bangladeshi blogger and writer Avijit Roy was chopped to death with meat cleavers (plural) on a crowded street in Dhaka, Even fleeing your enemies doesn’t work. In October, the Islamic State tracked down and killed two crusading anti-terrorist journalists who were both living in Turkey. Two items of interest in these killings: Thus far, the murderers are mostly Islamic militant groups such as the Islamic State and Al-Qaeda which were responsible for 40 percent of the deaths. And, more good news: The documented total of 69 is slightly higher than the year before, when 61 journalists were killed worldwide. Dead is pretty dismal, so we can’t generate much sympathy to those ink-stained wretches who are merely put in prison for their sins. The committee reported 199 journalist in prison because of their work in 2015, compared with 221 the previous year, Others, the lucky ones, were simply thrown out of the country.
Let me remind you again: Next time you are in Washington visiting your money, drop by the Newseum, an exhibition given over to journalism. It’s a fun place filled with the Fourth Estates’ mistakes, stupid stories and erroneous headlines: “Dewey Defeats Truman.” There are also less-funny items like the eyeglasses, pencil and notebook of Mark Kellogg. He was an AP reporter assigned to cover Custer at Littlebig Horn, and, no, he didn’t side with the Indians. There is also a wall covered with the names of journalists killed in the line of duty. Two more were added recently and, happily, there is room for more. But the name of William Cowper Brann isn’t there. He was a Waco newspaper editor. In 1898 he was gunned down on a street corner by an irate reader. After he was buried, someone fired a bullet into his tombstone
Now, if you’ll excuse the cliché, let’s fast-forward to our current presidential race. Sen. Ted Cruz is running on a platform of Beat the Press. He never lets a campaign speech go by without castigating the Fourth Estate. But when his latest book didn’t make the best seller list of The New York Times, Cruz wailed and moaned and declared that it was liberal media bias. Better yet, we have Donald Trump who frequently lambasts the media as “scum” or “horrible.” He recently told a rally in Grand Rapids, Mich., pointing to the reporters, “I hate some of these people, I hate ’em, I would never kill them. I would never do that. Uh, let’s see, uh?” he said a bit sarcastically, his voice rising. “No, I would never do that.” Then Trump charged once again that some of the reporters in the back of the room are “such lying, disgusting people.” The crowd turned to angrily face those reporters, and the scene was really uncomfortable. Good thing the Trump staff didn’t let in any Muslims.
OK, no one became a journalist to win a Miss Congeniality Contest. Venom goes with the venue. No big deal, Shrug it off and continue your biased blasphemies. As for me, I’m keeping a sharp eye out for Donald Trump, especially if he’s holding a meat cleaver.
Ashby is lying low at firstname.lastname@example.org