Frontline World

ISRAEL/PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES, In the Line of Fire, March 2003


Related Features THE STORY
Synopsis of "In the Line of Fire"

INTERVIEW WITH PATRICIA NAYLOR
When Journalists Become Targets

THE MOST DANGEROUS PLACES FOR JOURNALISTS
Charting Worldwide Risks

THE PALESTINIANS AND THE PRESS
Hazards for Reporters Working in the West Bank and Gaza

STANDING UP FOR THE REPORTERS
Interview with Committee to Protect Journalists

DIVERGENT ISRAELI VIEWS
Danny Seaman and Gideon Levy

LINKS & RESOURCES
Press freedom, slain journalists, background

MAP

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Introduction
Journalists are protected from harassment or harm while they're on the job -- at least on paper. Key international agreements outline these protections. Article 19 of the 1949 Universal Declaration of Human Rights recognizes freedom of expression as well as the right to disseminate information and ideas through any media and across any borders. In 1977, the Geneva conventions clarified the distinction between combatants and journalists who cover armed conflicts. The conventions state that journalists are to be accorded the status of civilians in conflict zones and that reporters accompanying combatants into battle should not be treated as soldiers or spies. In theory, then, these and other international agreements entitle journalists to work freely, whether in a war zone or during times of peace, both at home and abroad.

But keeping reporters out of trouble is no simple matter. Every year, dozens of journalists die on the job. Some simply are caught in the wrong place at the wrong time, as in the case of photographer William Biggart, who died while covering the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York on September 11, 2001. Other journalists are deliberately targeted by governments or groups seeking to silence them through intimidation, imprisonment or assassination. Such abusive treatment is rare within the United States, but more prevalent abroad. The abduction and brutal murder of Wall Street Journal correspondent Daniel Pearl in Pakistan in February 2002 is a sobering reminder of the hazards faced by journalists around the world.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Pearl was one of 13 journalists killed worldwide in 2002. In 2001, the CPJ documented 37 killings. In many parts of the world, it's still quite dangerous to be a working journalist. As New York Times correspondent William A. Orme Jr. wryly observed, "It might be prudent for a reporter in such situations to keep a Kevlar-coated copy of the Geneva conventions in the left breast pocket."

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By Dave Gilson
Dave Gilson is a journalist based in Berkeley, Calif.

Producer: Angela Morgenstern; Designed by: Susan Harris, Fluent Studios; see full web credits.