It’s a dangerous time to be a journalist. This is the conclusion of a Doctors Without Borders report out today on press freedom worldwide. Last year, according to their tally, 86 reporters and photojournalists were killed, the most global casualties in a single year since the mid-1990s during the height of the Rwandan genocide.
Iraq accounted for 56 of those deaths, and at least another 25 were kidnapped. Just this week three journalists went missing in Baghdad. The body of an Iraqi reporter, who had been kidnapped earlier this week, was found yesterday. And on Monday two journalists working for CBS, one of whom is an Iraqi working as an interpreter, were kidnapped. There’s still no sign of them.
The dangers Iraqis face—working as interpreters, drivers, correspondents, intel-gatherers—are often far greater than the dangers western journalists do; foreign journalists live in compounds, and they are on temporary assignment, where they don’t have to a threat of retaliation. There’s no offficial tally but as of last summer there were only 20 American print journalists in Baghdad, meaning many of the headlines we see in the west come to be because of the work of local journalists. And for that perilous work, what will it mean for their resumes long-term? And what becomes of these stringers when we leave?