Salute to journalists who died doing their jobs
I write from time to time about frustrations I sometimes face in my line of work, whether it be dealing with elected leaders and politicians — particularly at election time; reporting errors we’ve published and must own; readers who sometimes are critical of our coverage; or even the growing challenge of simply finding experienced journalists to fill newsroom vacancies.
Just last week, I was frustrated by something that occurred, and I took a few minutes to calm my nerves with some fresh air and a brisk walk outside the office. That’s a luxury that so many journalists around the world don’t have!
In fact, this week I will participate in a solemn event reminding me how good we really have it.
Wednesday is World Press Freedom Day, an annual event declared by the United Nations General Assembly to raise awareness of the importance of freedom of the press and to remind governments of their duty to respect and uphold the right to freedom of expression. That freedom has been enshrined under Article 19 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Of course, not every country honors this important freedom like our First Amendment does in America. The risks and danger of bodily harm faced daily by brave journalists worldwide quickly minimalize the frustrations we face in American newsrooms.
Journalists around the globe go fearlessly into war zones, they report stories about evil forces in government and they routinely tell stories that someone out there doesn’t want to be told.
Only on rare occasions do we hear of American reporters dying on domestic soil, but that’s not to say it doesn’t happen, nor that journalists don’t often put themselves in harm’s way.
Undoubtedly, though, the most serious risk to journalists working to share information comes in other corners of the world.
According to the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists, or CPJ, at least 67 news media workers were killed worldwide last year, the highest number since 2018. Killings of journalists around the world jumped by 50 percent last year, compared to the previous year, driven largely by attacks in Ukraine, Mexico and Haiti. In fact, 35 of the 67 killings took place in those three countries.
Mexico saw 13 news workers killed, according to the committee. Other media groups have put the number at 15, which would make 2022 the deadliest year in at least three decades for Mexican journalists. In war-battered Ukraine, 15 news workers were killed last year, CPJ said.
In Ukraine, journalists covering the war frequently are injured by shelling while covering the conflict, and some even report they have been targeted by Russian forces, according to CPJ’s report.
In Mexico, the slayings appear to stem from mixes of drug gang violence, local political corruption and a lack of punishment for killers.
In an attempt to recognize the ultimate sacrifices journalists made last year, journalists around the globe this week will mark World Press Freedom Day.
Locally, several members of the Youngstown Press Club will gather at St. Peter and St. Paul Ukrainian Orthodox Church on Belle Vista Avenue in Youngstown.
As we’ve done in past, the local club, of which I am a board member, will meet at the church at noon, and we will take turns reading the names of 67 journalists killed doing their jobs in 2022.
The Ukrainian church, of course, was not selected by accident, and following the reading of the names, a short memorial service will be held.
For my part, I will read the names of five of the 15 journalists who perished doing their jobs in Ukraine last year.
They are: Oksana Baulina, a journalist killed during shelling of Ukraine’s capital city; Oksana Haidar, a journalist and blogger killed by artillery fire; Oleksandra Kuvshynova, journalist and producer killed by mortar fire; Pierre Zakrzewski, a camera operator killed by mortar fire; and Roman Nezhyborets, a video technician found dead with hands tied, and shot in the knees.
The far-away lands where such injustices and horrific deaths occur sometimes might be easy to ignore or forget, but the foreign soil doesn’t make the work of these reporters, photographers or videographers any less important.