The Daily Star reported on May 4th, 2012 that a journalist dies every 12 days in the Levant region according to the Levanese media watchdog SKeye. Since the last World Press Freedom Day, designated as May 3rd by the United Nations General Assembly to promote freedom of expression under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 29 journalists have been killed. The European Union’s office in Beirut has declared that they are going to serve justice by catching and punishing those responsible. Just not so long ago, a Lebanese cameraman Ali Shaaban was shot on Lebanese soil near the Syrian border while shooting a footage. On April 4th, fellow photographers of AliShaaban held a ritual in remembering and honoring his death by laying down their cameras in front of his poster.
Reflecting back to an article by Andrew Cohen, he asserts and then debunks that “becoming a journalist is easy; anyone can do it.” He first shows what it really means to be a journalist. Though the term may be subjective due to differences in individual opinions on eligibility, he compares a legendary journalist for NPR (National Public Radio) Daniel Shorr to an adventurer Amanda Lindhout to find a common feature: they both passionately advocate the public’s right to know.
One astonishing deed Daniel Shorr achieved was his stance on the Pike Committee Report. In 1970s, the Congress formed the Pike Committee chaired by Representative Otis Pike to conduct an investigation of the CIA’s operations. Mr. Pike pushed for the publication of his investigation, thus the Pike Committee Report, to public while Ford Administration strongly refused to do so. Eventually, it was leaked to the Village Voice, who Shorr was working for at the time, and the Congress summoned all the reporters and journalists of the Village Voice to ask for their sources. Shorr strongly refused to reveal the sources of the Pike Committee Report though he was fully aware that his refusal could lead to times in jail. His stance was clear and firm: he found it his duty to preserve the mission of journalism and to advocate the public’s right to know.
Lindhout made the same decision for the public’s right for information. She was fully aware of the dangers and obstacles she would face in Somalia but these difficulties did not stop her from telling the world the truth of what is happening inside the conflict. Shorr and Lindhout show, also in conjunction with Shaaban who demonstrated recently, how many journalists have a sense of duty in reporting the news, and how they take serious risks to seek out “desperate” places and face difficulties to discover the truth. They do so at much risk because their actions may bring out awareness and information that may change the world and because everyone has a right to know the truth. For these reasons, I am in complete agreement with Cohen that it may seem easy to be a journalist yet so hard.
Journalism is considered to be the Fourth Branch of the government, a medium employed to inform the public with truths. The field of journalism has taken drastic turns in the recent century with the rise of internet social media. With the development of technology and growing accessibility, everyone was given the power to be a journalist. Research could be done easily on-line, and their opinions can be expressed in minutes on their blog. In this environment, it is unfair to say that all journalists must have a journalist education background. Amanda Lindhout is an example of one. However, this does not necessarily mean that anybody can do it. Journalism isn’t as simple as having an opinion. There is still a “definition” of what it means to be a true journalist, and it will always hold true.