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2015-01_dc

D+C Vol.42.2015:1 15 Staying safe and sane In August this year, ISIS terrorists published gruesome videos showing the execution of Jim Foley and Steven Sotloff, two journalists from the USA. The images spared no details and made the in- ternational public aware of the danger foreign cor- respondents are exposed to in crisis areas. Local journalists of countries that are rocked by violence and conflict put their physical and mental health at risk daily. According to the human-rights organisation Re- porters without Borders, more than 71 journalists as well as 39 bloggers and citizen journalists were killed worldwide in 2013, and 87 were kidnapped – more than twice as many as in 2012. Hundreds were jailed and tortured. Syria, Eritrea and Somalia are currently the most dangerous places for media workers. The profession is similarly dangerous in coun- tries such as Mexico, where the fight against the drug mafia claims lives every day. According to the UN, 80 reporters were killed or “disappeared” while doing their work in Mexico the past twelve years. Reporters without Borders put Mexico in the same category as dangerous countries for journalists, like Iraq and Pakistan, and speak of a “culture of vio- lence against the press”. Since 1992, more than 1083 journalists and me- dia workers have been murdered all over the world. Most of them were not international war corre- spondents, but local journalists, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), an inde- pendent organisation based in New York. Journal- ists are often threatened, kidnapped, persecuted or tortured. The perpetrators are terrorists, security personnel and sometimes even the police. Journal- ists from local communities are particularly exposed to such danger. Most crimes against journalists go unpunished and have no legal consequences. In Mexico, for example, only around two percent of the perpetrators who assault journalists are prosecuted. Violence results in media self-censorship and a con- stant state of fear. Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that everybody has the right to free- dom of opinion and expression, and Article 3 states the right to security of person. It is a huge challenge to enforce these rights everywhere. Unwanted memories and nightmares While there are a few training opportunities to pre- pare journalists, photographers and cameramen for assignments in crisis areas today, there are hardly any systematic options for bracing oneself for the mental stress of witnessing unimaginable violence. The emotional repercussions of journalistic assign- ments tend to be vastly under-estimated. They in- clude unwanted memories, nightmares or flash- backs. And this kind of mental strain is reinforced every time a journalist is sent on a new assignment in a crisis situation, be it in Syria, Iraq or Afghani- stan. In 2004, Gregor Sonderegger was the Russia cor- respondent for Swiss TV. He reported live from Beslan in North Ossetia-Alania, where terrorists had occupied a school and taken more than a thousand hostages. In this tragedy in the Caucasus, more than 330 people lost their lives, many of them chil- dren. “Never before I had seen children dying,” Son- deregger recalls. “Had I had children of my own at the time, as I do now, I couldn’t have reported from Beslan.” Remembering Haiti’s devastating earthquake of 2010, Roosevelt Jean Francois says: “It is impossible to cope with those situations on your own.” Francois is the director CECOSIDA, an organisation of jour- By Petra Tabeling Journalism is a dangerous profession. In crisis regions, many media workers are killed every year – by coincidence or because they were personally targeted. Many journalists, moreover, are harmed psychologically. Witnessing violence tends to cause trauma.

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