SXSW Panel Explores the Rising Number of Journalists Killed on the Job

Free press under fire

Karen Attiah
Karen Attiah

A likely place to begin a discussion of the human costs of journalism is with the Committee to Protect Journalists' listing for Jamal Khashoggi, the Saudi Arabian journalist-in-exile assassinated by Saudi government agents at the country's Istanbul consulate on Oct. 2, 2018. The listing provides a brief summary of the "deeply depraved" murder, and under "Case Status" notes: "Complete Impunity."

Courtney Radsch
Courtney Radsch

Most of the world is now familiar with Khashoggi's singular case, but he is also just one representative instance in the CPJ's current campaign against "Global Impunity." CPJ Advocacy Director Courtney C. Radsch, one of the participants in "The Human Cost of Journalism" panel for SXSW, told the Chronicle that CPJ monitoring reflects that "in nearly 9 out of 10 cases of journalists murdered, the killer goes free." Radsch is hoping the panel will help raise public awareness about the issue, and about the number of journalists killed worldwide in the course of their work. "The murder of Jamal Khashoggi," she says, "really highlighted the danger that journalists face around the world."

Another panel member, Karen Attiah, was Khashoggi's editor and colleague at The Washington Post, where he wrote a regular column on international affairs. The morning I spoke with Attiah, she and her Post colleague David Ignatius had just been given the prestigious George Polk Award for their ongoing work on Khashoggi's story. "It's very bittersweet," Attiah said. "I'm heartened that the whole world knows his name now. ... We're not done – by we, I mean everybody who knew Jamal – and the Post is still not finished with the effort of accountability and honoring him and his legacy."

Attiah and Radsch both say that Khashoggi's story is representative of the threats faced by journalists everywhere (including the U.S.), starkly reflected in CPJ's annual statistics. "We categorize them as 'killed in crossfire,' 'dangerous assignments,' or 'murdered,'" explained Radsch. "Last year, there were 53 journalists killed; 34 of those journalists were murdered. That represents an 88% increase over 2017, in which 18 journalists were murdered, out of the total of 47 journalists killed. ... The percentage of journalists murdered increased significantly."

Attiah had recently returned from visiting her family in Ghana, ranked highly among African countries for press freedom. Yet while she was there, journalist Ahmed Hussein-Suale was assassinated by gunmen, apparently in retribution for his reporting on corruption, after a Ghanaian politician had publicized his face and name. "Jamal has become the global symbol," said Attiah. "But there are just so many journalists – and not just journalists, but just people who are outspoken. People around the world pay the price for just speaking their minds and wanting to pursue the truth."

Both panelists noted the foreboding effects of the Trump administration, and of Donald Trump's repeated denunciations both of alleged "fake news" and of reporters, in Stalinist fashion, as "enemies of the people." Such statements by Trump and his supporters, said Radsch, "have led to a deterioration in the conditions globally. It sends a signal to those in power around the world that it's okay to attack journalists, and that the United States is not going to push back."


The Human Cost of Journalism

MEDIA & JOURNALISM

Sunday, March 10, 3:30pm, JW Marriott Salon E

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
The Hidden Cost of Labor Calculated in <i>Building the American Dream</i>
The Hidden Cost of Labor Calculated in Building the American Dream
In the rubble of the NOLA hotel collapse, Chelsea Hernandez's documentary remains relevant

Richard Whittaker, Dec. 6, 2019

Gun-Filled Weekend Prompts APD Action
Gun-Filled Weekend Prompts APD Action
Spring fest unrest

Mike Clark-Madison, March 22, 2019

More by Michael King
Review: <i>You'll Never Believe What Happened to Lacey</i>
Review: You'll Never Believe What Happened to Lacey
UT could learn a lot from these "crazy stories about racism"

April 13, 2021

SXSW Film Review: <i>Who We Are: A Chronicle of Racism in America</i>
SXSW Film Review: Who We Are: A Chronicle of Racism in America
Jeffery Robinson's captivating lecture on America's shared legacy

March 24, 2021

KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

SXSW 2019, SXSW Conference 2019, Committee to Protect Journalists, Jamal Khashoggi, Courtney C. Radsch, The Human Cost of Journalism, Karen Attiah, David Ignatius, Ahmed Hussein-Suale, Ilana Ozernoy, Colin Nagy

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle