Freelancing in War Zones: Serious Journalists Left with Little Protection

Syria is the most dangerous place in the world for journalists. In the last three years at least 60 of them have been killed while covering the conflict there, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. Missing from the statistics is anything about the kind of journalist who goes to Syria and why. After the death of Marie Colvin, in a blizzard of Syrian Army shells in Homs in February 2012, much of the Western media drew back from covering the country. Meanwhile, a lightly resourced, laughably paid, almost wholly uninsured cadre of freelancers, often armed with little more than a notebook and a mobile phone, infiltrated Syria anyway. A few were crazy narcissists or war-zone tourists, but most were serious reporters. Four-fifths of all journalists working in Syria, according to one estimate, are freelance and answering to no one but themselves.

-James Harkin, in May’s Vanity Fair, on the disappearance of journalists Austin Tice and Jim Foley, and the dangers that freelance reporters face. A video surfaced Tuesday in which Foley allegedly was killed by members of the militant group ISIS.

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Photo: Nicole Tung, freejamesfoley.org