March 16, 2007

A reporter for Iraqi TV near Najaf, Iraq. The majority of journalists killed covering the war have been Iraqi. (AP Photo/Iraqi TV via APTN)

Risky Business: Dangers Facing Journalists

WASHINGTON - The kidnapping March 12 in the Gaza Strip of British Broadcasting Corporation correspondent Alan Johnston is the latest reminder of the danger journalists confront when they report in hostile areas. Johnston became the 15th journalist abducted in the Gaza Strip since 2004.

The possibility of being abducted, jailed or even killed is a daily concern for war reporters. In Iraq, taking the story beyond the daily bombings and deaths often pushes some journalists to explore a wide variety of social and political issues, even at the risk of their own safety.

"It really is a story that is best told by words," said Jim Michaels, who covers the military for USA Today. "The invasion itself was very compelling television. But the insurgency can't be told by video. … It's about ideas and economics and politics."

Reporters in Iraq navigate differing perceptions and competing agendas. Thomas Ricks of The Washington Post said that when he was embedded with a U.S. patrol in western Baghdad in 2003, his colleague Anthony Shadid, who speaks Arabic, moved about more freely and asked Iraqi citizens about the American troops.

"We were able to show what a wide gap there was between what the Americans thought they were doing in Iraq and what the Iraqis thought the Americans were doing," Ricks said.

Safety is another concern. "The environment is more dangerous for reporters than anything I've seen in Afghanistan, Somalia, Bosnia or Kosovo," said Ricks.

Since the 2003 start of the war in Iraq, 101 journalists have been killed there. When the Newseum opens soon, the World News gallery will offer stories about journalists who risked their lives to report the news.

Related: Visit the Newseum Event Archive Page for a summary of Reporting Terrorism, the Iraq Conflict and the Middle East," co-sponsored by the Newseum and the National Press Club, on March 22.

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