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Journalists are neither moving targets, nor side losses of wars

27 April 2011 / 23:04:21  GRReporter
5320 reads

Anastasia Balezdrova 

The documentary "Shooting vs shooting" has been released on the Greek screens already for a month. Its authors present the tragic fate of journalists, cameramen and photographers who have died in Iraq since the beginning of the war in 2003 until today.

The film presents how important the presence of journalists on the battlefield is, so that the consequences become known worldwide and alarms that not punishing the responsible for the assassination is the rule rather than an exception. Presented are the views of more than 60 journalists, media activists, writers, intellectuals and family members of the people who were turned into targets. The film was shot in Iraq, UK, USA, Spain, Ukraine, Qatar, Italy, Belgium and Greece.

A few days ago the film was rated in the top three of the international festival organised by the Arab network Al Jazeera, which involved 284 films from 92 countries.

GRReporter met with the author of "Shooting vs shooting" and a member of the executive committee of the International Federation of Journalists Nikos Megrelis.

What made you make this film?

I decided to make the film for two reasons. The first is the silence that comes after the murder of a colleague of ours when trying to transmit the news and picture to us. And here lies a paradox. While this man is alive and transmits the news, all people comment on his opinion, criticize it or agree with it, he forms the public opinion about what is happening on the battlefield. So, he is a part of everyone's life.

But a hush falls when he dies at work. We would think about him for a day at best. Then his name just adds to the sinister list of those killed on the battlefield at the end of each year.

And there is something wrong in this silence. In most cases of journalists who lost their lives the people who participated in their murder never sit in the dock. A criminal investigation has never been conducted. This is wrong and shameful for our culture, but also for the human rights.

The second reason was that as a board member of the International Federation of Journalists I took part in the negotiations and the adoption of the first ever UN resolution on protection of journalists in places of hostilities. It was voted in December 2006 by unanimous decision of the Security Council. But until the public opinion is not involved these decisions would smoothly and certainly get close to the trash.

So, I decided that a film on this subject could unite the public opinion, because this problem affects not only a group of people, but our right to information.

If there are no people to inform us we would not know the things. If we do not know, we can not respond. And then there would be silence again. To break it we would have to protect those people who are there, and transmit news and pictures from a war. Not what the tools of propaganda want to show us. They aim to show us what good weapons they use, what are the available forces of each country, how many airplanes fly and how many missiles are fired. This is the one and possibly the more spectacular side of the war. The true side, however, is its effects on the lives of ordinary people. The pain, the destroyed homes, the shattered everyday life and all of its twist. And the journalists should be at the place of the events in order this information to get to us, who are not affected by the war thankfully.

How much are the journalists prepared for what is happening on the battlefield?

The International News Safety Institute in London, which collaborates with military veterans who organize a training camp for media activists, undertakes various initiatives in this direction. A person could go there for training if sent by the media in which the person works. Unfortunately, in most cases, the journalists who go to the hot spots go there without any training.

I believe that such training is essential. And journalists should especially remember that their lives are worth much more than a frame or a story. Therefore, the aim of the film is to make the public opinion aware and force the rulers not to perceive journalists as moving targets or collateral losses. The film is trying to alter the mentality and attitude towards journalists.
We had examples in Libya recently. Two photographers and an operator of Al Jazeera were killed, four journalists from the USA were kidnapped for a week and nobody knew where they were until we learned that they had been captured by the forces of Moamar Gaddafi.

My goal was the film to show that journalists should not be taken as a part of the war, which everyone uses as they like. There were a lot of examples of exploitation of journalists in Iraq. The Americans, through their propaganda tool, killed a large number of journalists and none of the participants in the killings were punished. But the members Al Qaeda or other Islamic organisations also captured journalists and executed some of them. One of the stories in the film is that of the Italian journalist Enzo Baldoni, who was beheaded by an affiliate of Al Qaeda.

Tags: MediaDocumentaryMilitary operationsKilled journalists
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