In an August issue of the Santa Cruz Metro, John Ross wrote in cover story Who Killed Bard Will?: “Those of us who report from the front lines of the social justice movement in Latin America share an understanding that there’s a bullet out there with our names on it. Brad Will traveled 2,500 miles, from New York to this violence-torn Mexican city to find his.”
While the world grows to be an increasingly dangerous place, journalists in all corners of the world are coming under fire. The messengers and story tellers that are so fundamentally important in restoring order in this global community are under attack.
Oct. 7 marked the one-year anniversary of the assassination of Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya. The gunman who murdered Politkovskaya, an outspoken critic of Russian president Vladimir Putin and Chechnya’s pro-Russian president Ramzan Kadyrov, has yet to be apprehended. Supporters recently took to the street to protest the Kremlin’s reluctance to dig deep enough to find the killer, whom many believe was merely the finger on the trigger for a government-sanctioned hit. Ten suspects have been arrested, including members of the interior ministry and the FSB, Russia’s security service, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. And since Politkovskaya’s death, two journalists have been murdered and one shot and wounded in what the BBC considers “suspicious circumstances.”
Later this month will mark one year since the death of Bradley Roland Will, a NYC Indymedia video journalist who was gunned down in Oaxaca, Mexico, on Oct. 27, 2006. Brad Will, 36, had been covering the popular uprising in Oaxaca, where striking teachers, joined by leftists, students, and municipal employees, known as the People’s Popular Assembly of Oaxaca (APPO by its Spanish initials), had been engaged in months of protests calling for the resignation of Oaxaca governor Ulises Ruiz Ortiz.
The protests grew after police fired tear-gas on crowds and an protesters where shot and killed by paramilitary gunmen linked to the Ruiz administration. When the late Brad Will was filming a late October conflict between protestors and gun-touting hit squads, a bullet hit him in the neck and his camera caught the shooters on camera before it fell to the ground.
Two local government officials, serving under Governor Ruiz, were arrested in connection to the killing, only to be released two weeks later. The gunman, who was caught on Will’s last breathe of footage, has yet to be brought to justice.
In Burma, where recent protests have errupted, a similar story has recently unfolded. The military junta reported that 10 people, including monks, were killed in the protests, a number many consider to be far under the true death count, and thousands of protesters were rounded up an taken to prison. Many are still missing, and Buddhist temples are under heavy surveilence.
During the tumult, 50 year-old video journalist Kenji Nagai was shot by a soldier. The military junta claimed that Nagai, who worked for the Fuji News Network, was caught by a stray bullet. Video footage on the internet, however, tells a much different story—Nagai was shot at close range by a Burmese soldier.
There are many troubling similarities among these murders, these assassinations, including the fact that they are all arguably at the hands of the government. They know that we are watching, that we are coming close to exposing their deep secrets that, if the public knew, may be the last straw before it all comes tumbling down.
In Burma, word of protests and violent government crack-downs were broadcasted on the world wide web by a mass of people. In response, the government shut down the internet.
Fortunately, the situation for journalists in the U.S. has not become so dire. At least not yet. U.S. journalists, however, must continuously worry about their reputation and credibility in an industry that has proven itself to be not very credible.
Let us not forget that the U.S. media played an instrumental role in bringing us into Iraq, blasting across the air waves the Bush Administration’s sales pitch of (non-existent) WMDs and a make believe connection to the 9/11 attacks.
The Committee to Protect Journalists has said that since the 2003 occupation of Iraq, 118 journalists and 41 media support workers have been killed.
All over the world, fear has been cast upon journalists. In turn, this fear is passed along to the people of the world. In some cases, the real news is being omitted, only to be replaced by constant coverage of celebrity murder trials and all else that would never have been considered news if we were not already hypnotized by television screens.
Meanwhile in the rest of the world, terrorism reigns, and it has caught numerous journalists in the gears.
As for the Burmese soldier who killed Nagai, who is merely a peon for the oppressive military junta, was probably another victim who had fallen under fear’s powerful spell.
This all serves a purpose. Fear is being waged on the world. All too many journalists and news agencies (probably owned by one of the five ruling conglomerates) are being constantly given a dose of fear—both the fear of harm or of losing credibility.	A fair and honest press that is not afraid to report the truth is essential to keeping governments, institutions, and all of us humans in check.
For more information, check out
Committee to Protect Journalists www.cpj.org, Reporters without Borders www.rsf.org, and Brad Will’s last video footage at http://elenemigocomun.net/1152.