Inside Out – April 07

If you believe that newspapers should still be relied on for coverage of issues that matter then you have to be dismayed by their paltry reporting of Killing the Messenger. This was the International News Safety Institute’s (INSI) most comprehensive ever examination of the 1,000 deaths of journalists over a 10-year period. I declare an interest here as I was a member of the enquiry and contributed to the preparation of the report.

Apart from the FT,  few British newspapers gave the findings the attention they deserved.
The newspaper coverage didn’t say why this INSI enquiry is different from other studies of deaths of journalists such as the recentl report by the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

The INSI enquiry includes the deaths of all media personnel including interpreters and drivers. The CPJ doesn’t record their deaths. Nor will you find their names listed on the Freedom Forum’s glittering Journalists’ Memorial in Washington.

As a not-for-profit organization, INSI provides free and low-cost safety training for local journalists. Killing the Messenger documents that three out of every four journalists killed around the world are murdered in their home countries pursuing stories that their governments or organised crime don’t want published.

But INSI’s work can’t continue unless it gets more financial support from the news industry. It is indefensible how few newspapers have been willing to pay 1000 Euros ($1,331 or £678) to become members and support training and improved safety practices for the local journalists and stringers on whom they rely.

Only the Guardian, FT and Boston Globe have become members. Not a single Murdoch newspaper has put any money into the fund. Nor have the wealthy German papers. In the U.S. there have been no contributions from newspapers such as the Washington Post and USA Today.

I’ve heard it said at major international conferences dominated by the newspapers (IPI and WAN conferences) that safety is really an issue for the more exposed television news crews than it is for print reporters.

Killing the Messenger sets the record straight: nearly the same number of print journalists and broadcast journalists have lost their lives over the 10 years that INSI compiled its figures.
There are now 1000 members of the Frontline Club. Many of you work for major newspapers and broadcasters. The next time you see your Editor (or Executive Producer) ask why your own paper or network isn’t a member of INSI.

Let me know what they tell you and we’ll publish their explanations next month.