Agency head defends Scott decision to go to Chechnya

Scott: killed in Chechnya last week

The director of a freelance news agency has defended the decision of cameraman Roddy Scott to go with a group of rebels to Chechnya, where he was killed last week.

Scott, 31, who had been in the region for around four months, was killed when fighting broke out between the rebels he had accompanied and Russian troops close to the village of Galashki in the Russian province of Ingushetia.

The Kremlin has confirmed that the body of a man carrying a video camera and a British passport was found among the 80 rebels who were shot.

Vaughan Smith, whose independent agency Frontline TV has distributed some of Scott’s footage, said the journalist was "adventurous and passionately motivated" to cover the troubles in Chechnya, which he felt had been ignored.

"We should be celebrating the courage of a journalist covering a story when many of us haven’t got the courage to," said Smith. "The industry does not appreciate how much it needs the likes of Roddy Scott, who was determined to cover the story when the mainstream media is keeping away for safety reasons."

His death brings the number of media fatalities in the past year to 50, the International Federation of Journalists has claimed. His death was followed by speculation in The Times that Scott had been foolhardy to travel there alone. Smith denied Scott had shown an error of judgement. "If he had come out with some incredible footage, nobody would say that," he argued. "Roddy was prepared to take a risk – he knew there was a risk that he could die, but it wasn’t certain death."

Scott, who was trained on a course funded by freelance charity The Rory Peck Trust, had travelled in Sierra Leone with rebel forces, with Kurds in northern Iraq and in the Bekaar valley with Hezbollah.

Chris Cramer, the president of CNN international networks, said that his death was a "wake-up call" to the industry. "It has become a horrible, grisly ritual for people like me to say we need to ensure journalists are given safety training," he said. "There are undoubtedly areas that are inherently hostile and there is a long tradition of news organisations such as the BBC and CNN using freelances. But it’s their responsibility to treat them the same as staff journalists and I don’t buy the notion that they are there to do our dirty work."

Answering criticism reported in The Times, Scott’s father Robin said his son had been neither "naive" nor "suicidal or really crazy" but "was determined to remedy the sparse media reporting of an appalling conflict". "He had spent many months in Georgia, which had engendered the respect of those he accompanied on this fatal expedition." he wrote.

"He was totally alert to all the risks and had indeed met most at first hand. It was only this proof of physical and professional calibre that made him acceptable on a mission that included the possibility of heavy losses."

By Julie Tomlin

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