Archive for April, 2007

Alan Johnston and his ilk

Tuesday, April 17th, 2007

When I heard on Sunday that a group which calls itself the Tawd and Jihad brigades claimed to have killed Alan Johnston I involuntarily gasped. My son, who had not been following the news asked me why and I unleashed a polemic aimed at the heavens about the self-destructive hubristic idiocy of such an action or even the claiming of the action.

I had been reflecting over the weekend on the bravery of Alan Johnston and indeed the bravery of many other journalists reporting from the dangerous fields. From the Philippines, Iraq and like my friend Walter Marwizi from Zimbabwe where he recently opened an envelope addressed to him and found a bullet. The deaths in Russia and the extraordinary example of bravery shown by Anna Politkovskaya who, and I do not apologise for the cliche, paid the ultimate price.

Once journalists were a relatively protected species when out covering conflicts far away. They died but were generally not the targets. Now, it is nearly an every day experience and it should concern all of us who rely on them to tell us about what is happening in places where not only we can’t be, but have no desire to be. Look at the reports on the International News Safety site to see the swelling numbers.

My reflections were leading to a short posting wandering a bit over the distances between the experiences of people who hold the absolute knowledge that what they are doing is as risky to their lives as would be crossing a motorway but carry on getting up, dressed and out into the world each day to do that very thing. And the rest of us who cannot know what that feeling or that drive is about.

I was going to ponder on the distance between the increasingly technological mediated news and old-style, smell-the-cordite (or at least the smoky back rooms of pubs) of the pre-tech news.

But it really doesn’t matter at all. I can’t write anything to add to the many words from people who know Alan Johnston and have worked with him. But I can suggest that you sign the BBC petition. It is the least, and sadly, also the most that I can do.