Posted by: Ciaran | May 25, 2010

Paying the ultimate price for journalism

This guest article for Press Gazette by film-maker Fazel Hawramy describes the pain of the families of jailed Kurdish journalists and political prisoners in Iran, and questions why the UK media did not report the recent execution of five prisoners who maintained their innocence.

In a haunting picture of what life is like for dissidents in Iran, Hawramy writes: “The weekend following the executions no newspaper in the UK thought this story even merited a brief mention let alone an in-depth analysis.

“One editor at a major Sunday newspaper replied to a question I raised about this by saying: ‘I am sorry that these Kurdish prisoners are facing execution, the story isn’t of interest to us unless something occurs.’

“The fact is something did occur. Five Kurds, who maintained their innocence, were hanged.

“When comparing the coverage of these executions with the recent arrests of three US citizens on the Iran/Iraq border in the Kurdish region, it’s little wonder why the Iranian government feel they can carry on killing. They know the international media won’t be paying attention.”

It is therefore a tricky balancing act for the media – the resources are simply not there to go and report every single one of these cases (and arguably the interest – of both readers and, it would seem, editorial staff – would not extend to every such instance), yet not to do so is to be passive to injustice.

Audiences are fickle, and it is a simple fact that some stories will capture the imagination where others will not. Equally, I have already written about how easily stories come and go from the news agenda, but also about how journalism must be a “truth-seeking missile,” holding people to account.

But whatever happens, and whatever the threats are, journalists will never stop trying to do their job – even if that means they run the risk of death.

This editorial by Lasantha Wickrematunge, editor of the Sunday Leader in Sri Lanka before he was murdered, says that more finely than I could ever hope to.

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