Deadly Saudi Attack on BBC Team Highlights Terrorism and Safety Challenge for Journalism

The killing of a BBC cameraman and the wounding of a reporter in Saudi Arabia yesterday highlight the increasingly frightening choices facing journalists who report from the world’s most dangerous regions, said the International Federation of Journalists today.


“The targeting of journalists by ruthless terrorists presents media with its greatest challenge,” said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. “We cannot bow to the intimidation of cold-blooded and ruthless killers, so we must face up to the reality that in this new climate of terrorism more actions must be taken to protect our people, because we can be sure more attacks will take place.”


He was speaking after the news of the killing of freelance BBC cameraman Simon Cumbers and injuries sustained by BBC Security Correspondent Frank Gardner after gunmen opened fire on them near the Saudi capital, Riyadh. They travelled to Saudi Arabia following recent terrorist attacks in the city of Khobar and had been making regular news reports from the country.


“It is a tragic reality that they have been targeted, either for being foreigners or for being newsmen,” said White. “Journalists everywhere will be saddened at the death of Simon Cumbers, but they will be determined to reinforce our demands for more protection for journalists in the field.”


The IFJ says that 2004 has already been marked out as one of the worst years on record for killings of journalists and media staff. So far this year there have been almost 59 killings of journalists and media staff deaths – with most of the victims in Iraq where targeting of journalists has increased in recent months.


Last month the world congress of the IFJ made security and protection of journalists the number one priority of the Federation’s new working programme, including boosting support for the newly-established International News Safety Institute, a global campaign for improving levels of safety in journalism.


“We must improve safety training, provide protection for people when they reporting from dangerous areas, and ensure that governments and security forces are doing everything they can to improve levels of protection for media people,” said White. “Journalists must be equipped to take the hard decisions about the risks they face, but they can only do that with confidence if they are certain that everything is being done to minimise the dangers.”