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Memorials on an altar during the 2007 annual service for fallen journalists in St. Bride's Church in London. (AFP)

Annual London ceremony honors fallen journalists

By Elisabeth Witchel/CPJ Consultant on November 11, 2011 1:47 PM ET

After the din of the day's student protests died down on Fleet Street, a gathering of a quieter, more somber sort took place. St. Bride's Church, London's so-called church of the press, held its annual service this Wednesday to commemorate journalists, photographers, cameramen, and support staff that died in the pursuit of journalism. This year's service was called "The Price of Freedom."

St. Bride's rector joined members of the U.K. media in paying tribute to the dozens of journalists killed over the past year in countries like Mexico, Brazil, Libya, Pakistan, the Philippines, and Vietnam. In a particularly moving speech, British journalist Mark Austin, of television network ITV, spoke of his time reporting in Somalia, where journalists, particularly local ones, face acute risks. Local reporter Nasteh Farrah, Austin recalled, was shot on the street simply because, his colleagues said, "someone didn't like his reporting." Austin also spoke of the guilt felt by a Western correspondent who is part of a large media organization that offers him protection in a country where his local colleagues have none.

Few in the St. Bride's audience personally knew the 38 fallen journalists and support staff whose names were read aloud, but attended the service simply to respect their colleagues' work and sacrifices. "These are reporters, not dropping in for a few days to temporarily cover a story. They're journalists who are working and living with the constant threat of intimidation, violence, and murder," Austin told the crowd. "Journalists who are getting uncomfortably close to the truth. Despite the dangers, they made a simple decision. They decided it is their job to try to tell the truth about what is happening in their country."

Read the full text of ITV reporter Mark Austin's remarks here.


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