I’ve been writing a lot recently about the urgent need to protect journalists in Afghanistan and Pakistan (a string of links is at the bottom of this entry). While neither country has become as dangerous as, say, Iraq at the height of the conflict, conditions are getting more dangerous for reporters. And very often, it is local journalists who need the most protection.
Last night I noticed that one of Dexter Filkins’ New York Times’ articles from Afghanistan, “Afghans Try to Reassure Tribal Elders on Offensive,” had a trailing byline that read “An Afghan employee of The New York Times contributed reporting from Lashkar Gah, Afghanistan.” This type of non-specific contributing line was used commonly by news organizations in Iraq, but this was the first such byline I remember seeing from Afghanistan.
I checked with Alissa Rubin, the paper’s Kabul bureau chief. She took the time to explain what was going on in an e-mail message. Here’s part of what she said:
The reason we have the trailing bylines is because we have hired three stringers in areas where the Taliban are active. In each case we’ve asked them how they would like to be credited. They have asked that they not be connected to an American news organization. In order to indicate where the information is coming from, however, we wanted readers to know that it is coming from a person on site where the events described were happening.
Rubin said that in order “to give the texture and depth that we wanted to our reporting … we decided to employ a few stringers to help out. My first priority with any employee is to keep them safe so we agreed to describe them as you have noted.” She said the Times will be doing the same in other Afghan cities.
CPJ data illustrate the dangers of war, particularly for local reporters. Our research shows that more than 35 percent of journalist fatalities worldwide since 1992 involved those covering conflict. The large majority of those killed were local journalists. Iraq has the worst total, with 141 journalists killed, 117 of them Iraqis. Time and again, our research showed, extremist groups targeted Iraqi reporters because they worked for international news organizations.
Here are CPJ’s data for Afghanistan and Pakistan. I included a breakdown of those figures in my recent Huffington Post piece, “Are the Dangers for Journalists in Afghanistan Approaching Those of Iraq? Afghanistan has been a bit of an anomaly; international reporters have been killed in higher numbers there than local reporters.
Whatever the numerical variations, though, consumers of news should realize that much of what they see, read, and hear from conflict zones comes from local journalists who are at significant risk.
Here is some of our recent coverage on journalist deaths in Afghanistan and Pakistan: