Thursday, February 21, 2013

A day to raise awareness of the risks faced by journalists and photojournalists in war zones on a daily basis



A Day Without News?

An awareness campaign to highlight the risks faced by journalists covering major international news is set to launch on the anniversary of the deaths of American war correspondent Marie Colvin and photographer Remi Ochlik, killed in the Syrian city of Homs last year.

 

The idea for A Day Without News? arose within the journalism and media industry, by those that too often find themselves targeted by belligerents whilst reporting critical news to the world and that have lost too many friends who did not survive their last assignment.

On August 15, 2012, at United Nations headquarters, in New York City, a panel discussion, “The Cost of Truth,” was held to introduce that year’s winners of the World Press Photo Awards, the largest and most prestigious annual photojournalism prizes. Several hundred were in attendance.

Speakers included photographers Lynsey Addario and Michael Kamber; photo agency representatives Stephen Mayes and Aidan Sullivan; David Marshall, representative of the New York Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR); and Maarten Koets, deputy managing director of World Press Photo.

The panel discussed the alarming increase in the number of injuries, kidnappings and deaths of journalists – who seem not only to be more often the direct target of perpetrators, but also more vulnerable to such attacks due to advanced technology. Aidan posed the question whether there is a better way to legally protect journalists and make the world aware of the critical importance to do so. Despite the fact that it is officially a war crime to target journalists, there has been little respect for or enforcement of the international human rights laws when applied to journalists. And it doesn’t seem that the public recognizes the risk in governments failing to do so.

That night, over drinks at photographer Steve Pyke’s New York bar, Kingston Hall, Aidan recalled a conversation he had had recently with the director general of the ICRC, Yves Daccord, about raising awareness of the dangers faced by journalists in conflict, starting from within the journalism and media community. Photographer Lynsey Addario, who was abducted in Libya in 2011, immediately warmed to the idea. She also mentioned that such an effort might help remind people of the recent losses of journalists such as Colvin, Hetherington, Hondros, and Ochlik. Also on hand that day was Vanity Fair’s David Friend, who would coin the phrase, “A Day Without News?”.

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