Reporting can be deadly

By David Thomas

Have you ever heard of Oleg Kashin?

If your answer is no, don’t worry. It’s not a name that gets passed around a lot, unless you happen to discuss Russian journalism on a frequent basis.

On Saturday, Kashin, a prominent Russian journalist, was nearly beaten to death outside his Moscow apartment. In one account from Julia Ioffe, the Moscow correspondent for Foreign Policy, Kashin’s injuries were quite severe, including a broken jaw and leg, a fractured skull, and blood in the lungs.

And this was not the end result of a robbery. Ioffe writes that Kashin still had his personal items.

While it is not proven, it is widely believed that Kashin was beaten for his reporting. And it’s at this point that I count my lucky stripes that I was born in a country in that does not regularly silence journalists with broken bones.

I want to report for a living, and that someday, I want to do foreign correspondence work. But things like this can be unsettling.

Danger is assumed. Investigative reporting is a threat to the corrupt interests that have a vital interest in the status quo.

Retaliation can come in the form of lost advertising dollars, lawsuits, or worse, prison. It’s only in non-democratic countries that you might be redecorating a basement floor with your internal organs just for asking questions no one wants you to ask.

Then there’s the war zone. Believe it or not, but journalists are quite allergic to bullets, grenades, bombs and missiles. And after dodging the crossfire, they also have to worry about the numerous instances in which soldiers have opened fire on journalists, or that their news station was “accidentally” hit by a missile.

In the end, it’s about balance. Investigative journalism can right major wrongs. But a news story is not worth your life. I’m not a fan of intimidation, but every journalist has to decide whether it’s worth it.

If you happen to agree with a thug’s argument after he presses the wrong end of an AK-47 into your temple, then the truth is not dead. Think of it as a series of battles; they won this round, but they can’t win them all. Eventually, good wins out.

Besides, dead men tell no tales.