Monday, September 5, 2011

Journalists at war: A simple digest

Noramfaizul is the 35th journalist killed in direct relation to his job in Somalia. I share the losses, as a journo and as a Malaysian.

Elsewhere and since World War II, at least 5,000 journalists - reporters and photographers - were killed, intentionally and unintentionally while expediting their duty to keep about 3 billion people worldwide well-informed about what is going on in the planet.

Noramfaizul was one of the unfortunates. However, this news that he was shot by the African Union Mission in Somalia or AMISON (here) near Mogadishu Airport draws my attention.

The Committee to Protect Journalists in New York has called on the African Union to ensure the safety of civilians operating in Somalia after witnesses reported that AU forces fired on a Malaysian humanitarian convoy on Friday, killing one journalist and injuring another.

I believe the convoy was trapped in a crossfire between the rebels and the army. It has happened many times before, not only in Mogadishu but around the globe. There had been incidents where many civilians were killed by strayed bullets from both sides. They were there at the wrong time and the wrong place.

The Malaysian media is still very much a 'newcomer' to this nature of coverage. The practitioners were never really exposed to covering high risk areas such as wars. We only started to send them out for the Desert Storm in Iraq-Kuwait in the early 1990s. Even that, they were well-protected and did not encounter with the actual situation.

I remember when I first stepped foot in Baghdad to cover the Gulf War between Iraq and Iran in 1982, another Berita Harian reporter Mahfar Ali was despatched to Afghanistan a few years later to 'team up' with the Mujahideen. Rosnah Majid of Utusan Malaysia was also in Iraq for a short while.

So, when Info Minister Rais Yatim suggested for a standard operating procedure (SOP) be created to serve as a guideline for all parties (here), including media practitioners, before embarking on or taking part in any humanitarian mission abroad, I feel glad about it.... and of course, I second the notion.

The time has come for the SOP to be put in place to prevent any untoward incident during such mission.

It's a good idea although is should have been introduced many years ago. Ask Mahfar or ex-NST senior journo Ben d'Cunha (who joined me in Iraq during my third visit in 1986) and Petrus Suryadi of Indonesian Kompass about our mission then.

In 1982, I volunteered for it since nobody else wanted to take up the role of a war journalist. And war journalism was something very new and odd to our media at that particular time. I had to apply leave to go to Baghdad (a socialist-ruled country), and being a Socialist nation, only a few of my stories were used as we were still depending heavily on news from Reuters, AP, Afp, etc.

The Iraqi Embassy in KL arranged everything, including an insurance amounting to RM500,000 should I fail to return (my parents were the beneficiary because I was still single). My employer did not provide anything, not a single sen and was told that I would be 'on my own'. I did not blame them because reporting during that era was mainly focused on local issues. Almost all newspapers only published foreign news fed by wires.

In Baghdad, I spent a week in an army camp co-managed by the Iraqi and the United Nations Forces in Khanaqin, north of the capital, for a 'special intensive training', among which was how to handle a Russian-made Kalashnikov (AK47) for self defense, how to duck should a hand grenade was thrown at you, to distinguish types of jet fighters and to dig a bunker under a tank.

Together with about 35 local and foreign journalists, we were told to pass the test or being left out from going to the war zones. I passed, and so did Petrus. We were also taught how to escape crossfire and from situations like that. Most importantly is how to pull the AK47 trigger.

Journalism has gone through evolutions. When the Malaysian Press started to despatch reporters to Iraq (via Jordan), Kuwait, Palestine and other areas of conflict, I began to realise that the time has come for us to source the news ourselves, and from our very own context. It is time to avoid exploitation by the Western media.

I have seen some journalists lost their lives in Iraq. The internationally-known CNN journalist Peter Arnett was also with me in 1982 but I disagreed with his style of working as he preferred 'lobby'reporting' too much.

It was a common scenario for journalist got trapped in between the warring factions. If you are lucky, you escape. Otherwise, your parents or next of kin would be richer by the amount insured on you.

Many believe a few more wars would erupt. In fact, the conflicts in some Middle East countries such as Libya, Egypt, Jordan, Yemen, Tunisia, Algeria and Syria would be worth-reporting if we have the budget and a well-trained team to select for the job.

I am saddened by Noramfaizul's death. He was a brave man. But we have to take the risk, sometimes, when attending to such a place and event. "Semoga Allah mencucuri rahmat ke atas rohnya... Amin!"

22 comments:

masih di BH said...

jai,

masa zaman 70an and 80an, tiada syarikat media yang hantar wartawan membuat liputan peperangan dan pertikaian antarabangsa kerana, antaranya masalah kewangan, tidak berani mencuba, belum biasa dengan liputan perang atau takut kakitangannya cedera atau kehilangan nyawa. insurans pada zaman itu masih sesuatu yang asing bagi rakyat malaysia.

aku masih ingat aku dan 2 rakan lagi hantar kau ke airport subang pada jam 12 tengah malam untuk naik boeing 747 iraqi airways ke baghdad.

zaman sudah berlalu, lebih2 lagi apabila kita sedar akan putar belit media asing mengenai sesuatu isu atau pertikaian. ia banyak memihak kepada kepentingan mereka.

kes wartawan dan jurukamera bernama TV ini sepatutnya membuka mata semua pengamal media agar membuat persiapan perlu - dari segi mental dan fizikal - untuk kakitangan yang bakal dihantar ke tempat2 begini di masa akan datang.

al-fatihah untuk allahyarham noramfaizul.

medium said...

its an eye opener for our media practitioners.

be well-prepared for such events.

goliath said...

it was unfortunate, sir.

they got trapped in the unwanted situation. it was a gamble. it was a war.

they have taken the risk... and unlucky.

war is all about madness!

Anonymous said...

was he and the rest of the team members insured?

at least rm1 million to cover such an event.

wartawan 1989 said...

jai,

agaknya kalau kau tulis buku mengenai pengalaman kau di medan perang, ramai akan membeli dan membacanya.

ia boleh dijadikan panduan oleh wartawan dan pasukan sukarelawan yang ingin bertugas di tempat bahaya macam ni pada masa akan datang.

kau pun pernah jadi hero jugak. aku masih ingat membaca rencana bagaimana seorang bayi perempuan berusia 6 bulan mati dalam dakapan kau, dengan gambarnya sekali.

Anonymous said...

Apabenda ko believe he was killed in crossfire?

Gi tanya mereka yang ke sana!

Dia di tembak indiscriminately oleh african union peacekeeper.

Gambar dah tersebar di blog.

Tak buat homework. Nampak sah ko dah dibayar untuk jack rais.

Hentilah hisap konek rais yatim tangan sotong. Pantat maznah tu terlampau bacin dgn dosa ... tak sedap dijilat.

Kenyataan rais kenyataan bodoh yang tak buat homework.

Anonymous said...

mahfar ke afghanistan?

waaaahhh!

cayalah!

Anonymous said...

if it is true that the african union soldier shot him, it must be investigated.

something was wrong back there...

lim brady said...

yes, many innocent people, journalists and others died in somalia, iraq, libya, afghanistan, israel, palestine and other war-torn places.

for journalists, its a risk they have to face. being caught in a situation like that is already so common. no big deal about it.

everybody was doing their duty. if you are not careful, it will strike you.

its all in god's hand

colombus said...

its all fated, bro.... what to do...

al-fatihah

ayam penyek said...

eloklah buat persediaan macam yang kau buat dulu. sekurang-kurangnya wartawan dan kumpulan sukarela yang nak ke mana2 kawasan perang boleh lebih bersedia pada masa depan.

apa yang datuk rais cakap memang benar. walaupun nyawa kita di tangan tuhan, kita perlu juga dibekalkan ilmu mengenai selok-belok bergerak di kawasan bergolak seperti somalia

Anonymous said...

takda siapa2 nak ke syria, libya atau israel ke?

atau sekurang-kurangnya ke korea utara untuk buat liputan?

Anonymous said...

jai,

what happens to NST london and new york offices?

closed?

why?

galaxy said...

war journalism is a well-honored job, full of risk and internationally-recognised. those who don it are real pro and with guts.

of course there are risk but if you dont have the balls for the job, better forget about it.

if we are scared of being shot and died, dont ever think of going there.

many other journalists and photographers had died in their line of duty. no big deal lor!

adik, UM said...

salam bang,

bila nak siap buku 'journalists at war' tu?

dah setahun lebih dah...

bujai said...

anon 12:27,

kami sudah kesan IP anda. saya sengaja siarkan komen hodoh awak ini sebagai perangkap. SKMM and pihak polis akan siasat.

bujai said...

to anon 10.06,

i am not in the position to answer that. pls ask the NST management.

tq

bujai said...

kepada adik, UM,

buku tu sudah hampir siap. cuma tengah cari semula gambar-gambar masa silam untuk diselitkan.

tk

a blogger too said...

jai,

aku kenal siapa anon 12.27 ni. kawan kita gak yang sakit ati tak tentu pasal dengan kau. dia jeles apa pun, aku tak tau. yang aku tau, dia ni jenis tak boleh percaya punya!

Anonymous said...

another datukship?

Anonymous said...

so, he was the 35th journalist killed in somalia...

who are the others?

Fleure said...

Assalammualaikum!
Is your book on war in the market. What is the title. I would like a copy of it.

Fleure