I wonder what they teach in journalism school these days. Karate? Wushu? How to Use a Bulletproof Vest? While such subjects would indeed lower the murder rate of journalists, I don't think that they've found their way into the syllabus yet.Having seen students doing journalism, I myself have been surprised at the difference that media training makes. I have seen how even students who have been considered good writers and editors have fallen into legal pitfalls when they have not had the proper training.
The importance of training was brought home to me in a recent research project done by a colleague in the Philippines. The Philippines has one of the most free press systems in the world; but by some reckoning, it is the second most dangerous place in the world to be a journalist, second only to Iraq.
In her research, she found that 90 per cent of the journalists killed had no training in journalism whatsoever. In many of the cases, they were radio journalists who so defamed, harangued and harassed their news subjects that these people felt that they had no recourse other than violence.
Had the journalists been trained, they would probably have known to what legal limits they could go. In other words, without intending to trivialise or condone the violence, 90 per cent of the murders of journalists could have been averted with proper training.
Many journalists in the Philippines get killed, but it's not because they lack training. They get killed because just like Iraq, the Philippines has major problems with law, order and security. And it's not just the journalists who get killed. It regularly happens to politicians, labour leaders and social activists. Even the President gets implicated in their murders.
Click here, here and here, for examples. And does anyone still remember Mr Aquino?
By the way, here's another one of those statistical sleights of hand - "90 per cent of the journalists killed had no training in journalism whatsoever". Doesn't this show that untrained journalists are much more likely to get killed?
No, not at all. For example, it may well be that 90% of all journalists working in the Philippines have no training in journalism. If the killers do not care whether the journalists they plan to kill are trained or not, then on average, 90% of the journalists who get killed will be the untrained ones.
Technorati: Singapore; Philippines; blogging.