Lyse Doucet: 'our job is to tell the story, not be the story'

of the International News Safety Institute (INSI) by Lyse Doucet, the BBC’s chief international correspondent, deserves as wide an audience as possible.

It is the foreword to an INSI report, , that tells of the experiences of journalists who risk their lives by trying to report conflicts in the modern world:

There has long been a mantra in journalism that no story is worth dying for. But there are stories worth taking risks for. The anxious issue of our time is assessing those risks as clearly and carefully as we can.

But never has there been a time when journalists have faced such odds of being in the right place at the wrong time. In all too many places, we are no longer just taking calculated risks to report on the front line. We are the front line.

Unresolved murders, kidnappings for ransom, beheadings are now happening at an alarming rate. Now, all too often, we are also the story. That’s not the way journalism should be.

Local journalists and freelancers are among the most vulnerable. Much more is being done to highlight the risks confronting those who, among the world’s media, often have less protection and prominence than better resourced news organisations. We all need to watch out for each other.

Journalism is what we do, and hope to keep doing. But our job is to tell the story, not be the story. We need the kind of safety, and assurances, that allow all of us to live to tell the tale.

Now there are moves, supported by INSI and other major media organisations, to establish a standard of safety for freelancers in dangerous places.

Now there are moves to establish accountability. Reporters without Borders has called for attacks on journalists to be considered a war crime by the international criminal court.

We’ve lost all too many dear friends and colleagues on the job, in the field, in the line of fire. Now, we think twice, and more than that, before we head out to the field, even to countries where many of us have worked for decades, and have many colleagues, contacts, and friends.

But often, danger explodes when you least expect it. In 2002, when we travelled to relatively quiet post-Taliban Kandahar, the wedding of President Karzai’s brother turned into an assassination attempt against the Afghan leader.

The bullets whizzed by two members of my team (Keith Morris and Philip Goodwin). An editor in London asked if we’d been wearing our flak jackets. “At a wedding?” we replied.

Last year, a visit to a shelter full of children in the Syrian city of Homs turned into a mortar attack that two colleagues, Natalie Morton and Phil Goodwin, narrowly survived.

Even with the risks looming large, journalists can and do decide they are still worth taking. An important story looms even larger and we believe, somehow, we’ll manage again.

, one of the most accomplished war correspondents of our generation, made her last fateful trip to what was then an embattled city of Homs. She heard the worries of colleagues.

She listened to the questions in her own head. But she replied to the concern of a mutual friend Channel 4’s International Editor Lindsey Hilsum by simply saying: “It’s what we do.” It was, again, a story about war and suffering the world needed to know about.

That is the title too of a new book by acclaimed photographer Lynsey Addario - “It’s What I do” - who has survived more than her fair share of danger.

Journalism is what we do, and hope to keep doing. But our job is to tell the story, not be the story. We need the kind of safety, and assurances, that allow all of us to live to tell the tale.

Read the full report

Source : theguardian[dot]com
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