Chroniclers of a war not foretold
As the world shudders and shivers staring at the third beheading video released by the dreaded ISIS – this time slaying British aid worker David Cawthorne Haines – it’s time to reflect on the state and scope of journalism in times of globalised terror. The executions of James Foley and Steven Sotloff, two American journalists and ISIS’ former victims, had sent ripples of horror through the neurotic circuits of global media only weeks back. Now, after felling Haines and parading Alan Henning, another British relief operator in their captivity, as the next in line, the ISIS has spectacularised what shadow governments have done for ages: slaughtering journalists, whistleblowers and political activists who have come in their way. While British prime minister David Cameron labels it an ‘act of pure evil’ and US president Barack Obama swears that America is now on war footing as far as the ISIS is concerned, how lame their proclamations sound! Not only has the 13-year-long war on terror – a botched and misguided approach to counter fundamentalism with state-sponsored extremism – simply escalated global terror to an unprecedented level, it has in fact supervised the mushrooming of militant groups, overseeing their meiosis and spawning many more, still deadlier offshoots. Covering West Asia, therefore, has been the best and the worst fate awaiting journalists worldwide, and anyone who has opted for embedded reportage instead of rehashing what the West and their puppet regimes would have them write, has basically put his/her life in the line of fire. Foley, Sotloff and hundreds of intrepid reporters, photojournalists and stringers, who closely collaborated with the locals in the regions they wrote about, have substantially complicated the West Asia narrative, and contributed to worthwhile journalism.
Now that their lives have been sacrificed at the altar of supremacy – religious, territorial, military, economic, identitarian – in a duplicitous war between perpetrators of violence, what lessons can we learn? While ISIS, a barbaric terrorist group, chooses the most visually gruesome mode and inserts the repugnant, horrifying video in the digital blood vessels of the world organism, so-called pinnacles of civilisation and global powers, chiefly the US, UK, even Russia and China, silence uncomfortable truth-tellers through the long hand of law. Following 9/11 attacks, the then US Attorney General John Ashcroft had asserted that media criticism of Bush administration would be tantamount to aiding American enemies, thereby imposing an unsaid censorship on what could be and could not be said in media. US government is waging a protracted war on Julian Assange, who changed the game of global media by creating WikiLeaks. Whistleblowers like private Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden are either imprisoned or have fled US soil, sheltered ironically by Russia, itself with terrible human rights record, especially among journalists and rights activists. In Asia, China, Pakistan and Sri Lanka have proved how lethal governments, or indeed their non-state appendages, can be towards those who dare to speak.