Freedom of the press is a collateral casualty of wars

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World Press Freedom Day, adopted by the United Nations, is an opportunity every 3 May to consider the conditions for practicing this profession. For journalists, documenting wars remains one of the most demanding and dangerous fields. For them, 2022 is especially at risk of dying.

Ukraine is one of the bloodiest wars that journalists have faced in recent yearsnotes Jean-Paul Marthos, journalist for the Belgian daily Evening He is the author of several books on the profession, including: In the lead: Journalism at the center of the conflict. These are conventional armies that clash with heavy weapons with indiscriminate bombing against civilians, including journalists.. Worse, in this war as in others, Many observers Fear that fighters will deliberately target reporters considered “hostile”.

It is in the evolution of timeregrets Jean-Pierre Canet, Director at SlugNews And a group member Media is not a crime. 30 years ago, a Western journalist was highly respected. He was seen as a representative of a certain freedom of the press, guaranteeing freedom to testify, rather than as a representative of his country. The tendency to include reporters in the armed forces, to better control them, which has become increasingly important since the Gulf War, has weakened this. »

In Ukraine, several teams of journalists were directly targeted, despite clear indications that they were placed in their cars. Elsewhere, media professionals are concerned about the way armed groups, particularly Islamists, seek to capture, execute or negotiate ransoms. According to the monitoring of the non-governmental organization Reporters Without Borders (Reporters Without Borders), 50 journalists and media collaborators were killed on the job in 2021. 2022, given the human toll of the first months, should be much more deadly.

No limits in the foreground

For many of these journalists, especially locals, the war doesn’t end with being away from combat zones. ” In authoritarian regimes, for freelance journalists, there is no real distinction between normal time and war timeJean-Pierre Canet notes. when Anna Politkovskaya Assassinated, they are not in the front rows. This figure was in Moscow from the independent Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta He was assassinated in 2006. Today, those from colleagues who wish to document their country’s invasion of Ukraine out of fear for their safety.

War can take many different forms. It remains one of the world’s deadliest battlefields for journalism Mexico. In 2021, the largest number of professionals was killed in this country, just before Afghanistan. Cartel bullets kill as much as terrorist bullets and chase journalists to their homes.

Democracies are not completely immune either, especially when it comes to questioning the ties that bind them to war zones. More than physical pressures, pressures are moral and above all judicial. ” In France, regarding arms sales, you can hardly ask questions “Regrets Jean-Pierre Canet, co-author of several surveys on this topic. Safety platform for journalists For its part, the Council of Europe cited the problem of asylum seekers, with Poland, France, Latvia and Lithuania cited as having imposed excessive restrictions on press access to refugees.

There is a constant struggle between the press and the authorities of countries, even those with traditions of freedomJean-Paul Marthos analyzes. Freedom of the press should not be left to the goodwill of leaders and should be protected by powerful institutions, parliaments, the judiciary, and journalists themselves. »

the duty of strictness

In a war zone, a journalist may finally tend to be less strict. Annoyance and dread can lead to going too fast. ” The fear of death, of not being able to get what you need back, is a cocktail that can make you lose your sensesconfirms Jean-Pierre Canet, a veteran of many conflicts. But the rules of journalism remain the same: review the facts and look for two or three independent sources to verify the facts. »

Difficult in the middle of battles. Gray areas are more numerous because some parties to the conflict may block any access to the territory they control. You have to know how to explain it to the audience. More and more media outlets are doing this act of transparency to clarify the limits and limitations of their production.

Faced with the extreme nature of the situations in which they are experiencing, journalists may finally wish to engage more personally, in favor of a side convinced of legitimacy, or of victims in general. ” A neutral approach to finding facts applies, but journalists may not be impartialthinks Jean-Paul Marthus. However, they must always be responsible: if they know, for example, that the camp forces they feel closest to have committed atrocities, they must say. »

World Press Freedom Day. © FMM Graphic Studio

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