January 23, 2002 | Killing of Daniel Pearl

Journalism can be a dangerous business, especially for those who work where terrorism is a real risk, like Daniel Pearl.

Journalism can be a dangerous business, especially for those who work where terrorism is a real risk.

What do you think of the fifth estate? Perhaps I should clarify what I mean by that. No, I am not referring to the long-running CBC programme The Fifth Estate, although there is a link to what I am on about here. The fifth estate is a phrase that describes the world of journalism (it was used to describe radio as early as 1932), or at least that is the way I tend to use it.

When it comes to journalism there are different views. Some see the press as the purveyors of ‘fake news’ (a certain president comes to mind): the German Nazi government used the term ‘lugenpresse’ – ‘lying press’. To propaganda leader Joseph Goebbels anything that went against the Nazi programme was a lie. Others see this as a way to get news, perspectives, and other information.

Wrong place at the wrong time

There are also different journalist ‘beats’. Some newspapers and radio/TV outlets still have those devoted to local news (city hall, human interest stories, etc.). Then there are foreign correspondents, those who are posted abroad to get stories of an international flavour.

Depending on where these journalists are posted they can be subject to physical danger. If your workplace is Afghanistan or Iraq, you open yourself to the very real possibility of being simply in the wrong place at the wrong time, especially when a violent conflict is raging.

On a few occasions these individuals are targeted directly and deliberately by terrorists. Daniel Pearl is a good example.

Mr. Pearl was a Wall Street Journal reporter who was abducted in January 2002 when he set off for what he believed was an interview with a prominent figure in the country’s Islamic movement. His captors later published photos of Mr. Pearl in chains and with a gun to his head. The group holding him, the National Movement for the Restoration of Pakistani Sovereignty, demanded the release of Pakistani nationals being held by the US in Guantanamo and Pakistanis being detained in the US as terrorism suspects.

Killing of Daniel Pearl

Mr. Pearl was killed sometime around 23 January. His throat was slit and the video showing his cowardly murder was sent around the world. One can only assume this was done to evoke fear and send a message to others.

Other journalists have been killed by terrorists. They are easy targets as most are seldom, if ever, armed. Not a very heroic by supposed ‘Islamic warriors’, is it?

I have deep respect for these men and women and wish them well.

By Phil Gurski

Phil Gurski is the President and CEO of Borealis Threat and Risk Consulting Ltd. Phil is a 32-year veteran of CSE and CSIS and the author of six books on terrorism.

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