The BBC and Dead Journalists

The BBC runs a lot of stories which are little more than rewriting some organization or another’s press release. I don’t necessarily have a problem with that, except when they can’t be bothered to be even slightly circumspect about being accurate when they are doing so. I mean, if all you’re doing is rewriting someone’s press release, how hard can it be to get things right?

Apparently, its rather difficult for the BBC. Take this story from January 2004, for example, about a report on the number of journalists killed in 2004. The story notes in alarming language that 129 journalists were killed last year according to the International Federation of Journalists — the most ever since that group began keeping such statistics.

Here’s how the BBC describes the deaths of journalists,

The IFJ said that in almost every corner of the globe journalists were targeted and killed by the enemies of press freedom.

Another dangerous place to work was the Philippines where 13 journalists were murdered, many of them for reporting on corruption, crime and drugs trafficking.

The IFJ said governments have a duty to do more to protect journalists and to find out how and why they died.

Working conditions, particularly for local investigative reporters, were becoming more and more risky, the group added.

The clear implication is that journalists are being murdered right and left for trying to report the truth — which, to some extent, they are. But the BBC deceives by not bothering to repeat the IJF’s clear caveat that its stats on dead journalists include quite a few who died accidentally.

For example, it includes in those 129 deaths several individuals who died after their plane crashed while trying to get a perfect shot set up for a photographer. It also includes cases of reporters who died in car accidents while heading to cover a story. It even includes the tragic death of a young Texas reporter who died when the large boom antenna on a mobile broadcast van hit powerlines and the journalist was electrocuted.

All tragedies but hardly representing the persecution of the press that the BBC implies that all 129 deaths represent.


‘Deadliest’ year for journalists. Chris Morris, The BBC, January 18, 2005.