Journalism is today, more than ever, considered one of the most dangerous jobs worldwide. Journalists are persecuted and killed by the content of their written articles, as well as for what their photographs expose. Journalism has having a rough time, and in a time where it was expected that journalists would lose influence--as a result of the big open space created by the internet for the opinion makers--it looks like journalists are even more needed and as a consequence, more threatened than ever before.
According to data provided by the Committee to Protect Journalists, the number of journalists who died while doing their job during this decade, more than doubled the number of journalists who died the two decades before. While between 1996 and 2002, an overall of 42 journalists died per year, the number increased between 2010 to 2016 where an overall of 92 journalists died per year. The reason why most of them died it also changed. While before the 90s, most of the journalists would die in a crossfire, or for other words, in the middle of a combat opposing two sides; nowadays, there's a big portion of professionals in journalism who are deliberately murdered. Because journalists have the unique power to expose and inform overseas with professionalism, quality, credibility, and as a result, influence upon masses; they are today the evil's target. Under these circumstances, Russian journalist Dmitry Pokov was killed last Wednesday, when he was at his home in Siberia, Russia.
Column chart showing the number of professionals who died while in journalistic assignments,
between 1992 and 2017. Chart by the Committee to Protect Journalists.
Well-known by the statement "we write what other people keep quiet about," Popkov pointed his finger to Russian officials and politicians who used financial crimes as their benefits. The 42-year-old editor and founder of a local newspaper, the Ton-M, investigated corruption deeply.
Popkov said in 2016, that his work represented "a pain in the neck for many officials who [were] trying to jump down our throat in every possible way," and affirmed the authorities were concerned because of the information his newspaper could reveal. However (by looking to Popkov's background) in my opinion, it's unclear if the investigative work done by Popkov and his newspaper, had only the intention of serving the population or if it was also a political interest to oppose his political opponents. The reason why I doubt, it's because Popkov was a deputy for the Communist Party and served the political council in his city.
To clarify, I support freedom in all forms of expression, but I believe politics and journalism should not combine in order to be unbiased. Popkov's reasons of murder were not officially confirmed by the police and probably will never be, but it's for me unclear if the reasons of his death are just journalism-related, or also politically-related.
Popkov's murder is known as the second event of this type happening in Russia this year. Just around one month ago, Nikolai Andrushchenko, 73, co-founder of the Novy Peterburg Newspaper, was severally beaten by a group of men who left him in an induced coma, resulting in death at the hospital. Andrushchenko published work related to corruption, police brutality, human rights, and he also highly criticized the current Russian President Vladimir Putin. "Journalists in Russia have consistently been killed with impunity, and only complete, credible prosecution will break the cycle of violence," said CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Nina Ognianova.
Popkov and Andrushchenko were killed in a country where freedom of speech and freedom of press are controlled by government. There is a historic of consequences and constant criminal reports against those who fight the system. Last month, a political investigative journalist and a blogger were attacked in public, in the city of Yoshkar-Ola, close to Moscow. On March, several journalists were detained when they covered the incidents of a large protest against governmental corruption that happened in 99 cities across Russia. There's also another report from March, about three journalists who were detained in city of Svetogorsk while working in a story about homosexuality.
These are the consequences of having a progressive vision in a world where some leaders want their people to be retrogressive and close-minded. Reason of that is the recent USA election, which was highly guided by the "fake news" idea imposed by the elected-President Donald Trump. To defend himself, Trump mislead and persuaded many vulnerable people who have no knowledge about what frequently happens in the political system. But, Trump was not the only one; Hillary Clinton also used the same strategy. At some point, it was just easy to say "these news are fake", because it's common sense that when a lie is said for multiple times, it turns a truth.
It's so effective that other politicians around the world started to use as a defense tool to their regimes, and against the criticism of many journalists. In one of my recent research papers, named "We Are Here, We Are The Syrians", I analyze the methods of propaganda of the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. There, I focused in a recent interview done to Yahoo! News where Bashar is confronted, for example, with photographs showing torture in Syrian Prisons. While faced with this evidence, he gets nervous, but maintains himself connected to the idea of a fake evidence, denying the accuracy of that evidence and showing some lack of intellectual honesty.
The world needs honest journalists. People who seek the truth and expose corrupted elites and criminal organizations. Honest professionals like the Russians Popkov and Andrushchenko or the American Stanley Greene who unfortunately, last week, also passed away. Greene was not murdered like the Russians. Greene, a historic documentary-photographer from Brooklyn, NY, lost his battle against cancer and at 68-year-old left us. Although, his work will belong forever. During his life, Greene searched for stories that could give some dignity, justice and truth to our society. I remember listening Greene saying there is evil in this world; and indeed, he contributed a lot to fight the evil and promote peace.
This is a bad time for journalism, but I don't lose my hope. To all the journalists who died, I'll get your back.
article re-edited on March 18, 2018.
The "Weekly Journal" blog is updated every Sunday.