James Miller (18/12/1968 - 02/05/2003) and Namir Noor-Eldeen (01/09/1984 - 12/07/2007) payed the ultimate price, each of them were shot dead while endeavouring to document the events of armed conflict as members of the media.
Miller was a successful cameraman and film director with previous experience filming in areas of conflict, he was working on a documentary depicting the lives of various children living in the war-torn region of Rafah, Gaza. He was shot in the neck, dying almost instantly on the last night of filming by an Israeli soldier.
Noor-Eldeen was a young Iraqi-born photojournalist. He was trained and employed by Reuters news agency “as part of a strategy to employ photojournalists with strong local knowledge and access to areas considered too dangerous for Western photographers to work in”1. He and the group he was with were shot at by American soldiers flying above Bagdhad in a helicopter and he died instantly.
The deaths of these two men are just two examples of members of the media losing their lives while covering events in dangerous areas. As at May 12 this year there have been 27 reported deaths of journalists in different regions of conflict in the world2. The media and the role of the media in such situations raises many questions and controversies. On one hand, the media bring vital information to the attention of the international public and are an important tool in the documentation of war. There is a need for un-biased reporting of these events in order to prevent propaganda, cover-ups and to justify the need for war and the need for justice. In the case of these two deaths however, nobody has yet been held accountable, even with the United Nations pleading governments “to do all they can to prevent crimes against journalists, investigate any crimes that occur and bring the perpetrators to justice”3. This is perhaps the biggest controversy in relation to these deaths, the question of accountability in what is essentially, acts of murder. On the other hand, members of the media are not soldiers trained to enter war zones. They enter regions to report and record the occurences of events in places where impartiality is impossible to assert. Safety is a risk and there is the question of whether media should be allowed to enter such dangerous situations without being fully equipped to handle certain predicaments. Another controversy surrounding these deaths, in particular Noor-Eldeens death and the media’s representation of war in general is context and the fact that we, as distant on-lookers only witness filtered versions of events which are sometimes placed out of context.
In an interview shown in the documentary Death In Gaza, which James Miller was filming at the time of his death, he states that the human response to witnessing war and death is to turn away, to turn the camera off. But he goes on to add that doing that would not be bearing witness and “showing the actual reality of a situation”4. His wife...