LA VALLEUR COMMUNICATES: Musings By Barbara La Valleur — The Human Cost Of Freedom Of The Press

The short paragraph in a recent Star Tribune’s Nation and World section hit me in the gut. “2020 was a deadly year for journalists.” The three sentences stated:



2020 was a deadly year for journalists

The number of journalists killed as a result of their work more than doubled in 2020, an international media watchdog group said Tuesday, with armed conflict and gang violence making Mexico and Afghanistan among the deadliest countries for reporters globally.  At least 30 journalists were killed worldwide this year, according to the watchdog group the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), with 21 of those killings carried out as a direct response to the reporters’ work, compared with 10 in 2019. “It’s appalling that the murders of journalists have more than doubled in the last year, and this escalation represents a failure of the international community to confront the scourge of impunity,” Joel Simon, the CPJ’s executive director, said in a statement.


For most people, 2020 has been a difficult year with COVID-19, political  and social unrest and food insecurities. My husband and I have managed to get through the year without any major difficulties. My one-night stay at Mayo Clinic earlier this month to repair a stomach hernia is already all but forgotten. We are thankful to have food on our table, not only our comfy condo in the Twin Cities, but also at La Farm, our 33-acre family retreat in Ottertail County, where we spend most major holidays. This week, we bit the bullet and sold one of our cars. So now, we’re a one-car family, which will also help us save money.

We’ve known people who have survived COVID-19 and have been hospitalized on ventilators with their families not knowing whether they would live or die. Sadly, we have also known some who have not made it.

Though I don’t personally know any of the 32 journalists around the world who were murdered, (listed below), we are connected through the unbreakable thread of sharing our profession. So it cuts deeply.

In my 55-year-plus career, I am proud to call myself an international photojournalist. My passion was the smaller media markets of Fargo-Moorhead, Wahpeton-Breckenridge, Charlotte Amalie and Christiansted, U.S. Virgin Islands and seven German newspapers in the Bergstraße, between Frankfurt and Heidelberg. I also had freelance articles and/or photos in the Star Tribune, Minnesota Women’s Press and covers photos for Sigma Theta Tau, an international nursing magazine over the past 25 years.

The importance of international journalists who are in the thick of armed conflict and gang violence cannot be overstated. They face abuses, secrecy and threats to their lives and safety.

Numerous journalists have been murdered or killed around the world while reporting, covering military conflicts or because of their status as journalists. Over the last few years, at least 39 have been directly targeted as a result of their journalistic investigations according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

What didn’t help were the continuous, unsupported and biased daily attacks on the media by our country’s “leader” in 2020. To me, he did not “Make America Great Again.” He didn’t lift up the media as one of the most important amendments to our Constitution. On the contrary, he did everything in his power to convince his followers that we journalists are the “enemy.” Unfortunately, now most of them believe that. What a pity.

From Google:

“The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees the freedom of the press in the United States. The First Amendment is actually three separate clauses that guarantee not only press freedom, but freedom of religion, the right to assemble, and to “petition the government for a redress of grievances.” For journalists it’s the clause about the press that is most important.”

Indeed, I would hope that in the coming years, people will come to appreciate what we do and what we stand for.

On a separate and equally disturbing note from the Committee to Project Journalists on their website: cpj.org:

“In its annual global survey, the Committee to Protect Journalists found at least 274 journalists in jail in relation to their work on December 1, 2020, exceeding the high of 272 in 2016. China, which arrested several journalists for their coverage of the pandemic, was the world’s worst jailer for the second year in a row. It was followed by Turkey, which continues to try journalists free on parole and arrest new ones; Egypt, which went to great lengths to keep custody of journalists not convicted of any crime; and Saudi Arabia. Countries where the number of jailed journalists rose significantly include Belarus, where mass protests have ensued over the disputed re-election of the long-time president, and Ethiopia, where political unrest has degenerated into armed conflict.”

Please read the names of the following journalists who were murdered in 2020 according to the Committee to Protect Journaist. These are real people.

  1. Abdiwall Ali Hassan, Freelancer, Universal TV, Radio Kulmiye, Somalia.
  2. Abdul Nasser Haj Hamdan, Binnish Media Office, Syria.
  3. Ahmed Abdul Samad, Dijlah TV, Iraq.
  4. Amjad Anas Aktalati, Freelancer, Syria.
  5. Christoff Griffith, The Nation, Barbados.
  6. Elyas Dayee, Radio Free Europe, Radio Liberty, Afghanistan.
  7. German Vallecillo Jr., Canal 45 TV, Honduras.
  8. Hussein Khattab, TRT Arabic, Syria.
  9. Iliyas Hossain, Dainik Bijoy, Bangladesh.
  10. Israel Vázquez Rangel, El Salmantino, Mexico.
  11. Jobert Bercasio, Balangibog, Philippines.
  12. Jorge Miguel Armenta Ávalos, Úlima Palabra, Medios Obson, Mexico.
  13. Julio Valdivia, El Mundo, Mexico.
  14. Lourenço Veras, Porã News, Paraguay.
  15. Luis Alonzo Almedares, Freelancer, Honduras.
  16. Malalai Maiwand, Enikass Radio and TV, Afganistan.
  17. Maria Elena Ferral Hernández, El Diario de Xalapa, El Quinto Poder,  Mexico.
  18. Mir Wahed Shah, Mir Wahed Shah, Afganistan.
  19. Nabil Hasan al-Quaety, Freelancer, Yemen.
  20. Onifade Emmanuel Pelumi, Gboah TV, Nigeria.
  21. Pablo Corrugares Parraguirre, PM Noticias, Mexico.
  22. Onifade Emmanuel Pelumi, Gboah TV, Nigeria.
  23. Pablo Corrugares Parraguirre, PM Noticias, Mexico.
  24. Pahmatullah Nikzad, n/a, Afganistan.
  25. Rakesh Singh, Rashtriya Swaroop, India.
  26. Rasheed Bakr, Al-Mohrar Media Network, Syria 1 News Agency, Syria.
  27. Rex Cornelio Pepino, Original Energy, 93.7 FM, Philippines.
  28. Roohollah Zam, Amad News, Iran.
  29. Safaa Ghali, Dijlah TV, Iran.
  30. Shafiq Amiri, Khurshid TV, Afghanistan.
  31. Shubham Mani Tripathi, Kampu Mail, India.
  32. Virgilio Maganes, DWPR Radio, Northern Watch, Philippines.

I lift up the lives of these women and men who died in 2020 doing their best to preserve freedom in America and abroad.

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