Journalists in danger
by Martha Sparks
The daily news is a basic part of people’s lives — but few realize the terrible price that is paid to gather information and commentary around the world.
Nearly 1,000 reporters, photographers, translators, drivers and aides have been killed on the job in the past decade, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. The 10-year death toll is 978. The worst nation is Iraq, where 151 died, followed by the Philippines, 73; Algeria, 60; Russia, 54; Pakistan, 51; Somalia, 49; Colombia, 44; Syria, 36; India, 29; and Mexico, 28.
An ugly case touches West Virginia. Here’s the tale, reported in Monday’s Charleston Daily Mail:
Siriki Diabate was a schoolteacher in Africa’s Ivory Coast who began writing for a twice-weekly newspaper. He revealed several problems caused by the administration of new President Laurent Gbagbo — especially suffering of small farmers and persecution of Malinke people in the north of the nation.
Diabate’s paper received so many death threats that the staff went into hiding, meeting at secret spots to prepare pages and email them to a printer. Diabate left his family and spent two years on the run, staying in different towns, sleeping at homes of friends.
In 2005, he was caught at a police checkpoint, put into an unmarked car, and driven to a wooded spot. He was stripped to his underwear and beaten unconscious — presumably left for dead. When he woke, he ran and heard gunshots behind him, but he escaped. Finally, a woman gave him clothing and helped him reach a school operated by an American former Peace Corps volunteer, where he hid for five days.
Eventually, he was smuggled into nearby Ghana, where the U.S. Embassy granted him refugee status and helped him fly to America. He settled at Hagerstown, Md., where he earned a two-year degree at a community college — and now he’s working on a four-year degree at Shepherd University. He hopes to earn an advanced degree in law or international politics at West Virginia University.
Diabate came to the 2013 Legislature session in Charleston, where he worked as an intern under House Clerk Greg Gray. That’s where he told his troubled story.
Among journalists, Diabate is lucky because he’s alive. When you read the daily news, remember his tale and think of the 978 others killed on the job.
— Distributed by The Associated Press
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