In 2012 alone, a confirmed 67 journalists worldwide have been killed because of their work. A third of those journalists worked online, many were freelance, and most were local. The four murdered international journalists were all killed in Syria.
In the United States, the First Amendment is often taken for granted, or worse, maligned. Meant as a protection against what happened to the slain journalists, people in the United States often invoke the First Amendment to get away with saying awful, hateful things. Yet the spirit behind the law is a society of free-flowing ideas, wherein everyone is entitled to their own beliefs and the expression of those beliefs.
The First Amendment is also a protective measure against corruption and abuse. Here, a reporter can publish a damning exposé about a company, organisation, or individual and effect real change. Elsewhere in the world, as exhibited by the murders of these journalists, such work can get your killed.
In an effort to silence the people of Syria and stop the spread of information about Syria’s conflict, Bashar al-Assad’s government disallowed international journalists from entering the country. BBC Middle East correspondent Paul Wood, who said the Syrian conflict ‘is the most difficult one we’ve done,’ was one of the many international journalists who covertly entered Syria to cover the conflict anyway. Wood said, ‘We’ve hidden in vegetable trucks, been chased by Syrian police—things happen when you try to report covertly.’
Twenty-eight journalists have been killed in Syria this year. They and the others who have risked their lives did not do so to provide entertainment or dismissible debate fodder. Since the beginning of this year, over 40,000 Syrians have died, over 20,000 have been reported missing, and 1 million have been displaced. From the deceased journalists we can glean the life or death importance of having a voice, and putting that voice to use. Furthermore, a privilege not acknowledged is a wasted opportunity for both personal growth and actionable opportunity. Our privilege should not be taken lightly, or left to rust. We can use our voices not only to express our own beliefs or opinions, but to give voices to those who cannot use theirs. We have the ability to speak out for those who can’t, whether they be refugees, oppressed citizens, or animals in laboratories or factories. And in this case, ability is synonymous with obligation.