Can I Just Tell You? Journalists As Martyrs

Originally published on April 26, 2011 8:23 am
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And finally, normally at this time I share my thoughts in my Can I Just Tell You commentary. But today, I'm turning over the mic to Arsalan Iftikhar. He's a regular contributor to TELL ME MORE. He's an international human rights lawyer and global managing editor the

Arsalan wanted to share his thoughts on the recent deaths of photojournalists Tim Heatherington and Chris Hondros. The two were killed last week in the Libyan city of Misrata while covering the conflict there. Here's Arsalan.

Mr. ARSALAN IFTIKHAR (Attorney; Global Managing Editor, The philosopher George Santayana once said that, quote, "Only the dead have seen the end of war," end quote. To give you an idea how dangerous it is to be a war correspondent today, so far in 2011, at least 16 western journalists have been killed throughout the world according to the Committee to Project Journalists.

Time magazine world editor, Bobby Ghosh, and I first met in March 2006 when we were both on FOX News Channel talking about the kidnapping in Iraq of American journalist, Jill Carroll, who was reporting at the time for the Christian Science Monitor.

Can I just tell you, as many of us made the international television rounds calling for Ms. Carroll's release, I have always been astounded by how many prominent war correspondents decide to leave the cushy comforts of a charmed life to proactively embed themselves into sticky situations, where they may ultimately end up dead, simply because of their work.

As a former Baghdad bureau chief for Time magazine, Bobby Ghosh and I had coffee a few months back in my home town of Chicago to talk about our experiences. The unbelievable danger that war correspondents face every single day was apparent when Bobby told me the story where he and his local Iraqi guide were once stopped by a young group of gun-toting rebels.

At the time, Bobby's Iraqi contact was an older Iraqi gentleman, who had to use a walking cane because of a severe limp, and it was ironically that same walking cane that was the main reason that he and Bobby were able to walk away unharmed that day.

You see, there is traditionally a great deal of reverence and respect given to older people by younger generations throughout the Middle East. So when Bobby and his guide were stopped by these young armed rebels, Bobby's Iraqi guide had the genius wherewithal to point the youngsters to his walking cane to remind them that Arabs respected their elders, and that they should be set free simply because of that one cultural fact.

So, Bobby and his Iraqi guide were allowed to walk away unharmed that day. Sadly, Tim Heatherington and Chris Hondros were not so lucky in Libya last week.

My friend, Bobby Ghosh actually knew Chris Hondros during their time spent together covering the war in Iraq. In his Time magazine memorial column for his friend, he wrote that, war photographers are some of the bravest people that I know. In many years of covering conflict from Kashmir to Iraq, I have had to honor to befriend and work with some of the finest and bravest of the breed, and few were in the league of Chris Hondros.

Because we have become so desensitized to human suffering, and because war has become such a ubiquitous part of our global zeitgeist, we all usually tend to overlook the fact that many veteran journalists put their lives at risk every day trying to comfort the afflicted, and afflict the comfortable in tumultuous places like Liberia, Sarajevo, Iraq, and Afghanistan.

Like many war correspondents before them, Tim Heatherington and Chris Hondros ultimately gave their lives trying to tell the world the stories of the innocent voiceless. With their untimely deaths, we should all be given a stark reminder about the invaluable service that war correspondents provide to us on a daily basis within any corner of the globe today.

So let us remember these brave war correspondents who actively chose to enter these foggy theaters of war around the world in order to give a voice to the voiceless, who sometimes end up sacrificing their own lives needlessly and thus become one of the voices themselves.

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MARTIN: That was Arsalan Iftikhar, a regular contributor to TELL ME MORE. He's an international human rights lawyer and global managing editor of the

And that's our program for today. I'm Michel Martin, and you've been listening to TELL ME MORE from NPR News. Let's talk more tomorrow. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.