WASHINGTON – Seventy-two journalists from around the world, including seven from Pakistan, who died covering some of the worst conflicts in 2011, were honoured Monday as their names were added to a memorial wall, according to a media report.
Along with seven Iraqi journalists also killed in line of duty, Iraq and Pakistan were the two countries with the highest death tolls last year.The annual sombre event at the Newseum, on Washington’s Mall, drew about 70 journalists and family members who listened as each name was read out, followed by the sounding of a gong, The New York Daily News said in a report. A moment of silence after all the names were read signalled their final entry into journalism history.Alejandro Junco, the Mexican journalist who heads Grupo Reforma, was the keynote speaker, talking from his country’s own tragic experiences. Covering the violence in Mexico cost four journalists their lives in 2011.
“The price of speaking the truth remains unforgivably high,” Junco said. Pakistani journalists who were killed last year included Syed Saleem Shahzad, 40, who worked for the Italian news agency ADNKronos and the Asian Times Online; Nasrullah Khan Afridi, 38, of Pakistan Television Corporation. Shahzad was best known for his reporting on the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Pakistan and their possible links to the country’s intelligence service and military. He went missing on May 29, 2011, after writing a story for the Asia Times Online that linked al-Qaeda not only to a massive attack on a Pakistan Naval Air Station, but also to officials within the Navy.
“My brother was killed for writing the truth. He paid a huge price. He sacrificed his life but always spoke the truth,” his brother is quoted as saying in the Newseum’s electronic database. Shahzad’s name is now among the 2,156 names engraved on the Newseum’s two-storey glass panel that soars in a remote corner of the otherwise busy museum.
After Monday’s ceremony, family and friends laid a helmet and a reporter’s notebook at the base of the wall that had belonged to two American photojournalists killed in Libya, Chris Hondros and Tim Hetherington. Chris Wells, former senior vice president of Freedom Forum, a U.S.-based free press advocacy group, presided over the ceremony. According to Wells, the diverse group of journalists had been “brought together in a fellowship [that] none of them would have chosen:”
“They spoke different languages; they worked in different spheres of news gathering,” she said. “Some of them were known to millions on the nightly news; some of them worked in anonymity. Some of them knew of impending danger, but many of them were surprised. The common thread that united them all was their commitment to journalism and the fact that they left us all too soon.”In his remarks, James Duff, chief executive officer of the Newseum, called the Journalists Memorial “one of the most powerful and important galleries in the Newseum.”
Originally published in The Nation.