It’s become commonplace today to assault journalists in the performance of their duty. Unfortunately many pay their lives in bringing to us news fresh and live from the spot of the happening; right from the battle field. No less than 50 journalists have died since the beginning of this year. A record-breaking toll of 155 deaths was reported last year.
Attacks on journalists are taking a new shape. Hostility knows no limits; it is perpetuating from so-called respected and respectable people. Journalists continue to be the targeted, abused and offended not only by soldiers in the field, by criminals or gangsters, or by extremists; but also and even more by ruthless politicians, by arrogant members of government. These people don’t want their stories to be told or filmed as they are. The treatment is even more condemnable when it relates to a woman journalist; and when the “aggressor” is a head of State.
The latest case on record reveals one journalist Andrea Pana being treated as a “stinky Gypsy” by Romanian President Traian Basescu. The President snatched her mobile phone as she was trying to ask him while filming him about a ballot relating to his impeachment on Saturday last.
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is outraged. It has condemned such behaviour which it considers intolerable. It is said that the President is used to attacking reporters and calling them by offensive names, using sexist and racist language as was the case with Andrea Pana. Considering this incident as not an isolated one, IFJ General Secretary Aidan White said: “….His disgusting behaviour endangers the safety of anyone who is unlucky enough to get close to him…”
The hostile attitude of such caliber has raised my concern over “Journalism as a dangerous occupation”. Such threats are not new; not the first; not even the last, I’m tempted to believe. Reporters and journalists have always been and will ever be exposed… to the whims and caprices of those in power. The more so when the media dare to state the truths about their (wrong) doings; those truths that otherwise would have remained concealed to the extent of fooling the mob.
Journalists and reporters in conflict zones are considered as civilians as per a 1977 protocol of the Geneva Conventions that make it a war crime to target civilians. Unless there is a strong political will, even the best international law may be fraught with difficulties in rendering justice to media victims.
Mauritian residing in Rodrigues, Amanoola Khayrattee (pen name Alfa King) is contributing writer and journalist to La Gazette Mag de l’océan indien and This Week News Mauritius.
Retired, former meteorological cadre, trade unionist and OSH consultant, Amanoola has written for in-house union and other journals, publications and magazines. He runs two blogs since 2007: “Alfa King Memories”, and “Le Journal d’Alfa King”. When he is not reading or writing, he is on a 10+ km daily hike in anticipation of his monthly trails.
Amanoola may be reached at [email protected].