Editorial Notes

The death of heroism: The Statesman

Indian journalists light candles during a vigil for ten Afghan journalists who were killed in a targeted suicide bombing during an event to mark World Press Freedom Day in Siliguri on May 3, 2018.
Indian journalists light candles during a vigil for ten Afghan journalists who were killed in a targeted suicide bombing during an event to mark World Press Freedom Day in Siliguri on May 3, 2018. PHOTO: AFP

In its editorial, the paper laments the deaths of photographers and reporters in violence affected countries and warns of its consequenes on the pursuit of journalism.

NEW DELHI (THE STATESMAN/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - The gesture was more than a customary ritual; there is no mistaking the pregnant symbolism.

When fellow journalists lit candles on Monday in front of a photograph of AFP's photographer, Shah Marai, in Kabul, the professionals in a daunting terrain were mourning a militant outrage, most particularly on Press freedom and society in the wider canvas.

So it was that ten journalists were killed in a surgical suicide bombing by the Islamists; 26 others died in what appears to be collateral damage.

The expression, "surgical", is used intentionally for it is the innocent civilians who generally perish when the religious fundamentalists kill with abandon.

In Afghanistan, the hard-boiled professionals had felt duty-bound to defy the intrinsic dangers in a country that has, at least for more than two decades, been posited on a powder-keg.

And where tension rages beneath the tenor of "normal" life and killings a further inch below tension.

Yet again has a gruesome tragedy thrown up the imperative of protecting journalists; a robust intervention by the New York-based Committee for the Protection of Journalists (CPJ) could scarcely have been more apt.

Monday's mayhem recalls the extraordinary determination of the investigative reporter from Malta, Daphne Caruana Galizia, who was killed in a car bomb attack near her home last year.

To few is it given to accord precedence to professional duty over personal risk.

The ten reporters and photographers did just that in their intrepid pursuit to inform the world.

In Afghanistan as in certain other countries, the truth of the matter is in itself often a provocation to pathological killers - whether of the Taliban, Al Qaida, or ISIS variety.

The common strand must be the calculated malevolence.

It thus comes about that in Afghanistan, as in Pakistan, Syria and also, of course, in India, journalists are killed simply for recording the atrocities, corruption and repression around them.

At the moment, it is Turkey and Myanmar that contend for the unenviable title of the most "energetic persecutors of journalists".

In Turkey, the Erdogan government has sentenced 13 journalists and executives from one of the country's most respected newspapers to long jail terms for reporting on Kurdish affairs.

No fewer than 25 journalists have been killed since 1992.

No less chilling is the situation in Myanmar, where two Reuters journalists face long jail terms; on closer reflection, they richly deserve international awards for their scrupulous account of a massacre of civilians (aka Rohingyas) in Rakhine state.

In Afghanistan, the quest for the awesome truth has been muffled in a tormented land.

The enormity of the tragedy deepens considering that even a semblance of protection cannot be expected from a fragile and ineffective dispensation in Kabul. The Ashraf Ghani government bears witness to the death of heroism.

The Statesman is a member of The Straits Times media partner Asia News Network, an alliance of 23 news media entities.