Chances are, if you're reading this blog, you have an interest in international politics, crime, persecution, or all of the above. For the information you have accessed thus far in your life regarding such issues, you can likely thank an international journalist or an NGO employee or volunteer. In the last post, we discussed the fact that Egypt is taking steps to prosecute those professionals based on recent activities in Egypt, and to obtain Red Notices in their names. Today seems like a good time to give some thought to the work that goes into an NGO report or a reliable news article.
In order for us to recieve the information about other countries that we rely upon for our professional and personal pursuits, real people must travel to the countries that are to be studied. They engage in difficult, and often dangerous, activities as necessary to obtain information, check the validity of the information, and export it from the country.
A day in the life of such an investigative journalist often includes the following:
Deciding whether to brave a certain area of town in an effort to speak with residents, who may be too afraid of their government to even be seen with a journalist.
Weighing the benefit of conducting interviews with political dissidents against the risk of arrest in a country known for its human rights abuses.
Researching an interview subject's background to determine whether any unseen agenda exists.
Attending journalist training programs to learn the skill of fair and balanced reporting.
An NGO worker's day might look like this:
Monitoring elections for signs of irregularity while risking arrest on charges of interfering with an election.
Attempting to convince people who live in countries ruled by particularly oppressive regimes that it's safe to speak out.
Avoiding physical danger while moving from place to place and collecting information in post-conflict regions.
Hoping against hope for the safety of the people he just interviewed before he was ordered out of a country by its government.
Any professional who works in this field encounters the unavoidable fact that we do not live in a perfect world, where people would feel free to speak about injustices and harsh governmental treatment. We live in a world where some countries are so oppressive that, as a journalist recently told me,
"People are terrified . . . people just want to get through their
daily lives and are wary of talking to journalists."
Despite that reluctance to speak, and despite the danger involved, some people do tell the truth. Some NGO's do get information out of countries and into country reports. Some journalists do take the risks that result in real and balanced information getting out to the rest of the world.
While we don't all pay the price for those efforts, we all reap the benefits.
As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.