Journalists should be safe

Feb 142002

It’s been 23 days and no one knows for sure if Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, on assignment in Karachi, Pakistan, is alive or dead.

The alleged kidnapper, British-born Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, who is now in custody, said Wednesday that Pearl was still alive. Thursday, Sheikh changed his story, claiming Pearl had been killed but didn’t specify when it happened. Even Pakistani President General Pervez Musharraf doesn’t have a clue what’s going on. While it is unknown whether or not the Pakistani group behind Pearl’s disappearance is linked to the Taliban or al-Qaida, it’s a fair statement to place them in the same despicable category. Either way, we certainly hope the Pakistani government continues looking for Pearl and works to resolve this tragedy quickly.

What concerns us is the terrorists’ mindset that they can bring America to its knees, or at least make us meet their demands, by kidnapping journalists. Hell, their attempts on Sept. 11 only made us stronger, more united and more pissed off.

The United States’ policy of not negotiating with terrorists, kidnappers and other such scumbags is the right one. We are the world’s only superpower – CSU foreign policy guru Dr. Robert Lawrence calls us the globe’s first “hyperpower” – and while some countries, even our Allies, feel the U.S. has become a unilateralist nation, its hard to dispute that unless Americans get involved, things won’t get done.

Though it’s a sad and lamentable situation, whether or not Pearl is dead or alive is really not the issue now. The real matter concerns the free press. Hundreds of journalists are swarming the front lines of our new war armed with nothing more than a pen, a pad and a cell phone. While international journalists, Pearl included, recognize the risks when they voluntarily venture into war-stricken areas teeming with terrorists, are they setting themselves up to be the next martyrs?

Thus far the number of U.S. military casualties in Operation Enduring Freedom is less than the number of war correspondents who have been killed. Vice President Dick Cheney is planning a 10-day foray into the “Axis of Evil,” and is trying to discourage the idea of reporters coming along for security purposes. While the public demands the latest news, at what price does it come? The free press may not be so free anymore, because journalists are being forced to consider if their lives are worth reporting the news. That is the worst tragedy of all.

 Posted by at 5:00 pm

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