Our Girl Friday: Courage in Journalism Winners

Posted at 8:20 AM Jun 12, 2009

By Geoff George

The bad news for female journalists on the international front just seems to abound these days. On top of the two American journalists recentlyimprisoned in North Korea, there were also two separate killings of female reporters last week in Afghanistan. One of the reporters, Zakia Zaki, who headed an Afghani radio station, was killed in such a terrible and purposeful way it's hard not to see it as some sort of message:

"The murder was particularly gruesome as she was shot several times in her head and chest as she slept in the same room with her eight-month and three-year-old sons."

Just reading about violence that cold and premeditated is awful and disheartening enough, but I still can't truly imagine how soul-killing and morale-reducing it must be to live with it. Indeed, a lot of women are finding it hard to take. A recent Reporters Without Borders report cited by the Epoch Times revealed that in recent years the proportion of female journalism students in Herat, Afghanistan dropped from 70 to 30 percent.

It's hard, a beyond-my-comprehension sort of hard, to not only live with such violence, but to continue reporting in its midst, particularly as a woman, and the International Women's Media Foundation (IWMF) recognized this a few weeks ago by naming their 2009 Courage in Journalism award-winners: Iryna Khalip of Novaya Gazeta in Belarus; Agnes Taile of Canal 2 International in Cameroon; and Jila Baniyaghoob of the website Kanoon Zanan Irani in Iran. It's astonishing to consider that all three of these women have experienced violence first-hand and yet continued with their work, but it's even worse to know they often can't catch breaks within their country's media system either, much as Baniyaghoob couldn't with many of her employers:

"She has been fired from several jobs because she refuses to censor the subject matter of her reporting and several of her media outlets have been closed by the government. ... The topics of her reporting make her a target of the Iranian government. She has been beaten, arrested and imprisoned numerous times."

Here in the U.S., journalists are protected by specific laws and organizations like the IRE, and staring at our computer screens, we almost have to remind ourselves that people in other parts of the world wake up and make a daily choice to make life-threatening sacrifices.

If you want to help, you can go and donate on the websites of both Reporters Without Borders and the IWMF. The two organizations keep close international tabs on potential harm and wrongdoing against journalists, many of whom endure the worst where journalism is needed the most.


Paul said:

Reading stuff like this just turns my stomach. I wish them well in constant face of such challenges.

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