On the death of a television journalist

Last week this column said it hoped that all reporters in the Gulf could emerge swiftly, safely and credibly after the smoke of this war cleared. The first two of those three hopes have been dashed all too sickeningly and all too soon.

As thoughts of a swift and surgical conclusion to the war diminish further every day, we must come to terms with the death of Terry Lloyd during its first weekend.

With it, we mourn not just the passing of a talented and courageous journalist but also the forlorn hope that the industry’s new emphasis on training can protect every journalist from the unpredictable, savage cruelty of war.

That slyest of terms, friendly fire, has rarely sounded more hollow.

There will undoubtedly be valuable lessons learned from the circumstances of Lloyd’s death, but overarching all of these will be one grim truth: there is no such thing as a “safe” war when it comes to journalists wanting to show the realities of it to the world.

For now, though, we should dwell on the lessons learned from his life. As ITN’s most experienced foreign reporter, he knew as well as anybody what power there is in bringing extraordinary footage and insight into people’s living rooms. It was Lloyd who brought the world the first images of Saddam Hussein’s gassing of Kurdish families in Halabja in Northern Iraq in 1988 and he later produced some of the most compelling evidence of Serbian brutality when he discovered mass graves of slaughtered Croats near the city of Vukovar.

His incisive reports helped shed light on conflicts in Northern Ireland, Sarejevo, the Lebanon, Israel, Cambodia and the first Gulf War. Without him our understanding of the world would have been that much poorer.

But what of our final hope, that journalistic credibility is maintained in this complex theatre of war?

There is a danger that this tragic incident will give military authorities licence to crack down on the movements of those journalists who aren’t “embedded” with their own units.

That danger must be resisted. So far, the picture emerging is one in which reporters are bringing unprecedented close-up coverage of modern warfare – from within the military and from without – into our homes. It doesn’t make for comfortable viewing, listening or reading most of the time. But neither should it.

Terry Lloyd would have understood why not.

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