Forgive me for being a few days behind the ball on this, but I still think it’s worth a mention.
On Friday, a group of Arab journalists walked out of a press conference being held by Colin Powell to stage a protest to the shooting of five journalists who worked for the Al-Arabiya network.
A reporter and cameraman were killed and three others were wounded when American troops opened fire on their vehicle.
Powell responded with this statement: “I respect the rights and privileges of the journalists who just left to express their feelings. This is something that could never have happened at an earlier time in the history of Iraq and certainly not in the last 30 years.” He went on to say that he regrets any loss of life.
If the journalists had been working for me, after walking out of that press conference, they’d have walked into an unemployment line!
Journalists do not have the right to stage a protest at a press conference. Journalists have the obligation to cover news, not make it. There are right ways and wrong ways to protest, but for the people who dedicate themselves to bringing information to their readers and listeners, to elevate themsleves to the ranks of newsmakers rather than to do their job is unacceptable.
You’ll forgive me, I hope, if I have little sympathy for reporters who are shocked to learn that people who cover the news in war zones are placing themselves in a dangerous situation. As the old saying goes, “They knew the job was dangerous when they took it.” I do not mean disrespect to those killed or wounded: but it seems to me that they knew the risks they were facing and acted with bravery in their search for the truth on behalf of those who turn to them for it. The reporters who walked out seem to think that journalists who happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time shouldn’t be at risk. How interesting is it that the journalists who feel that way are from the Arab world, one of the most dangerous places on earth!
While I respect their opinions, and their right to those opinions, they were wrong.