Saudi attacks add to grim toll of journalists' deaths

Brave journalists are continuing to die, according to the director of the International News Safety Institute, who told a reception last Thursday: “There is no greater threat to world press freedom as a support pillar to free societies everywhere than violence committed against journalists.”

Just four days later Rodney Pinder’s words were underlined horribly when a two-man BBC film crew was mown down by gunmen in Saudi Arabia.

Freelance cameraman Simon Cumbers died instantly. BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner remains critically ill.

Both were alert to the risks of frontline environments.

Both had the benefit of full safety training.

They were operating in an area not considered high risk – neither felt it necessary to be wearing flak jackets. Yet initial evidence suggests that they may have been deliberately targeted.

The message is a stark one. There are fewer and fewer places where journalists can operate without fear of attack. In the past decade alone, 1,300 journalists and support workers have been killed in violent attacks or covering wars.

Which means that the INSI’s network becomes more important than ever. Pinder noted that, with the exception of The Guardian, no other national newspaper groups are yet involved.

Membership is no guarantee of safety, but in a world where the messenger has never been more vulnerable, it should surely be a high priority.

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