As a rule, journalists do not report on themselves. You may have seen a few exceptions last week when our NBC News team in Baghdad reported on the bombings outside their offices. In this case, our correspondent, producers and crew were part of this upsetting story.
While viewers and readers rarely hear about these attacks on the media, the targeting of journalists is developing into a troubling trend.
Last night, a "who's who" of journalism gathered at the Waldorf Astoria in New York to honor journalists who put their lives on the line in order to keep the citizens of the world informed. On this night, the Committee to Protect Journalists put the spotlight on the media.
Although I am an associate producer and certainly not a part of that "who's who" list, I was able to attend this glitzy affair. For the past month, I worked with the Committee to Protect Journalists and produced a video for this event.
For someone who is used to assembling two-minute stories for NBC Nightly News, this was a daunting task, but also a rewarding experience. Through several interviews and some revealing footage, I was able to tell an important story about the murder, repression and imprisonment of journalists. Much of the video focused on the mistreatment of journalists in Iraq. Journalists not only cover the violence, they are targets of it. More than 70 journalists and media workers have been killed since the start of the war.
Because of that danger, many western journalists do not venture out of their workspace in Iraq and rely on Iraqis to cover the story. However, these local journalists face their own danger. They are targeted by the insurgency for their work with westerners. The U.S. military has also arrested some Iraqi journalists without charge. Because they are able to get very close to the aftermath of bombings, the military believes certain Iraqi journalists are collaborating with the insurgency.
Another important part of the story was the vital yet under-appreciated role of the "fixer" in foreign news. A "fixer" is a local journalist on the ground in an area like Pakistan or Afghanistan. He or she serves not only as a guide and a translator but also helps the foreign journalist secure interviews. As Kathy Gannon of the Associated Press told me: "The fixer is the front-line person today." Unfortunately, the fixer can also be targeted for his or her work. I interviewed Khawar Mehdi Rizvi, who helped two French journalists investigating the Taliban in Pakistan. He was arrested and tortured. Thankfully, he was able to seek asylum in the U.S. and tell his story.
I also devoted a section to some of the obstacles journalists face here in the U.S. For example, you may remember Brian blogging about some of the restrictions faced by the media after Hurricane Katrina. In addition, I found some shocking footage of a New Orleans policeman harassing an Associated Press producer.
If you are not familiar with the Committee to Protect Journalists, you should take a look at their Web site. CPJ believes that democracy is not possible without a free exchange of information. Staff members travel around the world, defending the rights of journalists everywhere to report the news without fear of reprisal.
I learned a great deal from my work this past month and it was an honor to share this video with my colleagues and other attendees at last night's function.