No story is worth anyone's life

Over two weeks after American Journalist James Foley was brutally murdered by ISIS, another freelance journalist, Steven Sotloff has suffered the same fate. A gruesome beheading videotaped by the extremists just as they threatened to do if the US didn't halt the strikes against Islamic State fighters.

Over two weeks after American Journalist James Foley was brutally murdered by ISIS, another freelance journalist, Steven Sotloff has suffered the same fate. A gruesome beheading videotaped by the extremists just as they threatened to do if the US didn’t halt the strikes against Islamic State fighters.

I have not watched the callous videos. I can’t. They are thought to be authentic but part of me wishes it’s a cleverly staged stunt aimed at getting the US to back off and that in the coming weeks, we will learn that the journalists are still alive.

The past three years have been bad for journalism and journalists, with at least 70 getting killed and more than 80 kidnapped in Syria alone, according to The Committee to Protect Journalists. God knows how many deaths and abductions go unreported in other conflict zones like Libya, Somalia and Afghanistan. There are also the three Al Jazeera journalists serving seven to 10 year jail sentences in Egypt. When will the harassment stop?

There was a time when wearing a press jacket guaranteed safety for a reporter. Not anymore, much like how Red Cross and UN volunteers are targeted. I appreciate the effort and time journalists put into their work, and the endless sacrifices they make to bring us the story but I think it’s time to seriously weigh the risks.

Back in April, I was home watching Lyse Doucet, BBC’s chief international correspondent, covering the Afghan presidential elections. In one of the segments, she was at one of the candidates’ rallies and she was one of the few women there among dozens of men. There was a bit of pushing and shoving as reporters tried to get closer to the candidate and as Lyse continued to file her report, I thought I saw one or two disapproving glances as she walked past some men, as if to say it wasn’t a woman’s place. She was wearing a decent outfit but her veil was loose and so we could see part of her hair.

I was worried that someone might pick on that and attack her because that’s what extremists do. They think they know what’s right for everyone and can be brutal if they think you’re not upholding their values.

They kill indiscriminately as we have seen from attacks on women, children and now journalists who have nothing to do with their respective countries’ foreign policy. US President Barack Obama said there’s no strategy yet to curtail ISIS, but here’s something we can do in the meantime. We should stop giving them coverage. Right now, everyone is talking about ISIS and they’re thriving from the free publicity.

I’ve always wondered why Al-Shabab, Al-Qaeda and Boko Harama are allowed to run official communication channels that are even referenced by mainstream media! They regularly post on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, spreading their propaganda and gaining sympathisers and admirers. They should be stopped. Those with young children may know a trick that works well when they throw tantrums.

If you try to find out what’s wrong and attempt to pacify the child, he or she may act out more but if you ignore them and act like you have more important things to do, they’ll stop fussing.

 

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