Journalists abroad continue to face danger, tragedy

Journalists abroad continue to face danger, tragedy

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They are held captive, beaten, tortured, threatened and faced to deal with drastic weather conditions. They must adjust to language barrier and are sometimes subject to death.

For what crime? An attempt to share the news.

They are international journalists.

Robert Rosenthal is an award-winning journalist who was taken prisoner of Uganda in May 1982, just three weeks after becoming a foreign correspondent. Rosenthal was reporting on the civil war when he was taken captive. Fortunately, he was released three days later.

“I was arrested, beaten and whipped,” said Rosenthal in a phone interview with The Guilfordian. “I realized there is evil in the world and I was able to really feel what it was like to feel helpless. I’m lucky to be alive.”

The Committee to Protect Journalists — an independent, nonprofit organization —  is dedicated to the global defense of press freedom and has documented 982 total journalist deaths since 1992. In 2012, there were 232 journalists jailed worldwide.

Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl was abducted and beheaded in 2002 when he traveled to Pakistan in search of a link between Richard Reid (“the shoe bomber”) and Al-Qaeda. Pearl was 38 with a child on the way when he was decapitated with a knife on video by his attackers in Feb. 2002.

“The U.S. government has little to no control over journalists who want to venture into harms way, other than the State Departments issuing travel warnings regarding dangerous countries,” said Visiting Assistant Professor of Political Science Robert Duncan, in an email interview.

Associate Professor of Business Management Betty Kane pointed out that journalists are required to follow foreign law.

“When someone is abroad, they are subject to the laws and the decisions of the foreign government,” said Kane. “Just as we would impose in our country that when a foreign person was here, they would also be subject to our laws and our enforcement of those laws.”

While on a deadline to capture the truth and details of a story, language and cultural barriers can stop a journalist in their tracks. Weather and climate are also interfering factors.

“It is possible that without language or culture background the journalist could do things to offend people they didn’t realize was offensive,” said David Limburg, professor of foreign languages. “It’s also possible they might not get the best story because they aren’t as aware of what they should be.”

Steve Sapienza, an award-winning news and documentary producer, has covered a wide range of human security stories. Sapienza deals with language and culture barriers by hiring local guides and researching before adventuring abroad.

“I typically hire a local guide, someone who frequently works with visiting journalists, to help with translation and logistics,” said Sapienza in an email interview with The Guilfordian. “I research each topic I cover thoroughly online before I leave, and I also seek input from experts who work on the topic in the region.”

Iraq, the Phillippines and Algeria have the most reported deaths of journalists. More than 90 percent of killed reporters have been male.

Anna Politkoyskaya was a special correspondent for the independent Moscow newspaper called Novaya Gazeta. She was known for her investigative reports on human rights abuses practiced by the Russian military. During her career she was threatened, jailed, forced into exile, poisoned and, in 2006, found murdered in her apartment building in Moscow.

With endless risks and tragedies, many ask why journalists continue such dangerous work.

“I have witnessed a lot of famine (and seen) men, women, and children dying,” said Rosenthal. “It’s hard to deal with emotionally. You hope that your writing will reach out to people and mobilize and motivate help.”