The pay is miserable. The dangers are great. Dangers from the known and the unknown, dangers from passing the red lines and the lines unseen. The material rewards are seemingly few. And the burdens – the daily burdens are endlessly exhausting, frustrating, suffocating – endlessly.
In all the world, journalists press on against terrible challenges, or challenges that are not so great. Yet challenges that others refuse to face. It’s a tormenting challenge that sometimes overcomes journalists. I was talking recently to an Egyptian journalist in Cairo who is doing incredibly important investigative work, but who was exposing herself and her family to great dangers in getting the story.
This is the problem, I suggested. You need to do your work. You need to be clear and need to give all the facts so that you are credible and you will certainly have an impact. But you need to protect yourself and others, so you can continue to do your work again and again and so those close to you, and those who reply upon you will not suffer. I cannot say that enough.
Yet sometimes the decision is not so clear or simple. Think of all of those journalists who have been silenced.
These are the last words of a Sri Lankan editor who was murdered recently – I cannot recall as profound and moving a statement from a journalist about why some of us struggle on in the name of freedom. He wrote:
“people often ask me why I take such risks and tell me it is a matter of time before I am bumped off. Of course I know that: it is inevitable. But if we do not speak out now, there will be no one left to speak for those who cannot, whether they be ethnic minorities, the disadvantaged or the persecuted.”
And he ended his column, his last one, saying:
“Let there be no doubt that whatever sacrifices we journalists make, they are not made for our own glory or enrichment: they are made for you. Whether you deserve their sacrifice is another matter. As for me, God knows I tried.”
Here is the annual report from the International Federation on Journalists on the dangers and deaths faced by journalists in 2008