Monday, June 16, 2008

Hailing hacks killed before deadline

AN average of two war reporters per week are killed in the line of duty, and even more die after uncovering corruption and publicising politicians' pecadilloes. This spectacular monument has just been erected atop Broadcasting House to honor their sacrifices in getting news out to the world, according to the BBC online

A memorial to journalists killed while doing their work is to be unveiled by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

The 10m (32ft) glass and steel cone atop central London's BBC Broadcasting House will shine a beam of light into the sky every evening at 10pm.

It is dedicated to all news journalists and those who have worked with them, including drivers and translators.

Over the past 10 years an estimated two war reporters have died each week, with many more killed covering corruption.

Relatives of some of the victims will join the UN Secretary General for the dedication ceremony.

Abdul Samad Rohani and Nasteh Dahir
The BBC's Abdul Rohani and Nasteh Dahir Faraah were both recently killed

The memorial's inauguration follows the recent deaths of two BBC journalists, Abdul Samad Rohani and Nasteh Dahir Faraah, in Afghanistan and Somalia.

Rodney Pinder, director of the International News Safety Institute (INSI), which works for more safety for journalists, said: "These men and women are the unsung heroes of democracy, for without a free press there can be no freedom.

"This shaft of light in the capital of international journalism is a visual reminder of their sacrifice."

The implicit contract, whereby journalists place their lives at risk to help us understand the world and its events better, needs to be reaffirmed

BBC Chairman Sir Michael Lyons drew attention to the risks taken by many journalists in the course of their work.

He said: "The implicit contract, whereby journalists place their lives at risk to help us understand the world and its events better, needs to be reaffirmed.

"At moments like this that sacrifice is properly valued and the loss is widely shared."

The sculpture, entitled Breathing, is by Spanish artist Jaume Plensa.

It was specially commissioned and selected as a result of an international competition for the BBC's public art scheme.

The BBC also commissioned a poem to complement the structure by ex-war correspondent and poet, James Fenton.

A year-and-a-half ago, Resolution 1738 was passed by the UN Security Council which demanded an end to attacks on journalists.

The full text of the James Fenton poem is:

We spoke, we chose to speak of war and strife – a task a fine ambition sought – and some might say, who shared our work, our life: that praise was dearly bought.

Drivers, interpreters, these were our friends. These we loved. These we were trusted by. The shocked hand wipes the blood across the lens. The lens looks to the sky.

Most died by mischance. Some seemed honour-bound to take the lonely, peerless track conceiving danger as a testing ground to which they must go back

till the tongue fell silent and they crossed beyond the realm of time and fear. Death waved them through the checkpoint. They were lost. All have their story here.

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