Not many people know this, but it’s a fact: Dozens of journalists of different nationalities are killed every year while covering violent confrontations. The battles in the Balkans, in Afghanistan, in Iraq, and in Israel too have claimed the lives of hundreds of journalists and photographers who chose to report on battlefield events from up close. Dozens of others have been wounded.
Yet international global opinion is only truly outraged when an American or European journalist is hurt, or when a journalist is murdered by some kind of dark regime for political reasons. On those occasions, people again wonder whether it is appropriate for journalists to risk their lives just to bring facts from the ground or an authentic description of war and its horrors.
There are even some journalists who argue that the descriptions and photographs brought by journalists and photographs on the ground are merely meant to provide excitement for the readers and television viewers. Therefore, they say, these stories are not worth the risk.
However, those who say this are wrong. There is no substitute to a journalist’s report or photographs from the battlefield. Only a skilled journalist at the battle scene would be able to distinguish between facts and the propaganda that both sides use to flood the local and global media. Only a credible and ongoing report from the battlefield can help the readers, politicians, and international community to formulate their position and understand what’s going on.
A humanitarian service
More importantly, the presence of journalists and photographers at the war zone deters the sides to the conflict from carrying out horrific acts against civilians and enemy combatants. On several occasions, while I covered the wars in Afghanistan, in the Balkans, and in Africa, I saw fighters who were ready to shoot captives or loot the homes of civilians changing course once they noticed the presence of journalists and the cameras being aimed at them.
So yes, this is certainly something that is worth risking one’s life for. This is not only about getting a good story; it is also a humanitarian service and a service to anyone who wants to understand what is really happening in order to formulate an opinion and act.
A professional journalist like Tzadok Yehezkeli could not have ignored this mission. He traveled to Georgia even though, as an experienced journalist, he was familiar with the risks inherent in it. He must have been scared. Yet as an experienced journalist he simply knew and felt that he has to be there and bring the story.