Vol. XL No. 1

All the News That’s Worth the Risk: Improving Protection for Freelance Journalists in War Zones

Abstract: Although war journalism has existed for centuries, changes in the nature of armed conflict and its coverage have put the danger for modern journalists at an all time high. The traditional war correspondent has been replaced in recent years by the independent freelance journalist. While the former receives the full protection and financial backing of his respective news organization and the American military, the latter works on his own, often living in dangerous war zones with little or no training, insurance, or equipment. This new mode of journalism has proved especially dangerous in the current conflict in Syria, where terrorist organizations such as the Islamic State intentionally capture journalists for use as propaganda pieces and bargaining chips. The U.S. government and news organizations worldwide have issued policies and entered into agreements aimed at offering better protection to journalists reporting from dangerous conflict zones. Recently, many voices have advocated for legislative amendments to the Geneva Convention that would establish new protections such as a press emblem or a special status. This will not solve the problem, however, as the major players in current conflicts systematically ignore codified law. The most feasible action to mitigate danger and reduce targeted attacks against journalists is to put an end to the impunity that has allowed the Islamic State and other violent military groups to carry out these acts unprosecuted.

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