by Scott Charton, Associated Press
COLUMBIA, Missouri (AP) - Covering world events is increasingly "hard and dangerous" for journalists, whose best professional protection against harassment and arrest is unrelenting global publicity about the abuses, former hostage Terry Anderson said.
Oppressive governments often relent under pressure when journalists "focus the light of publicity on them," Anderson, former chief Middle East correspondent for The Associated Press, said Wednesday evening at the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Journalism.
Anderson, who marked a decade of freedom in December after almost seven years as a hostage in Lebanon, now is vice chairman of the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists. The committee was founded in 1981 to monitor abuses against the press and promote press freedom around the world.
"We work primarily by applying publicity, the journalists' weapon," Anderson said.
"We're the good guys. Sometimes we don't do it very well. Sometimes we let our egos get in the way. But we're on the side of the angels," he said.
The recent kidnapping and slaying in Pakistan of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl is only the latest grim example of dangers faced by journalists. The committee reported that 37 journalists were killed worldwide last year, 118 were jailed and there were more than 600 attacks.
"The state of international journalism is in a crisis," Anderson said. "Things are getting rough, things are getting hard and dangerous in many places ..."
"Daniel Pearl was not a cowboy ... most of the foreign correspondents I know are not cowboys, they're not adrenalin junkies ... Daniel Pearl was a pro, he was doing things in the best way he knew how."
Anderson was joined on the panel by Javed Nazir, a Pakistani journalist whose newspaper was burned by a mob because it published a letter to the editor that some readers considered blasphemous.
Nazir said journalists overseas cannot count on police or government protection; officers stood by when his publication was torched, and "they did not want to come between the mob and the newspaper."
Alex Lupis, a program director for the Committee to Protect Journalists, said the non-profit, non-partisan organization is working to help embattled journalists with legal aid, fellowships in the United States and even helping journalists' families cover expenses.
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And, of course, generating publicity about cases: "Our basic leverage is making the governments look bad," Lupis said.