Don’t Always Expect the Seventh Cavalry

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Commentary

by Daniel Nardini

An effort to rescue an American photojournalist named Luke Somers, held hostage in Yemen, failed when his Al Qaeda captors shot him dead as U.S. special forces drew near the compound where he was held captive. It is a very sad ending to a rescue attempt, and I send all of my condolences to his family and friends. I am thankful that no U.S. special forces casualties ensued, and I had hoped that this rescue effort could have been successful. But I must give a very, very grave warning that all journalists and all photojournalists and all free lance writers must know the dangers they walk into when they go to a dangerous country or dangerous and unstable part of the world.

As I learned from my experiences, being a journalist no longer entails any immunity, any protection, any kind of “respect” from too many enemies, too many rogue organizations and rebel groups with a grudge. It may have been true 40 to 50 years ago that journalists in the field were not considered targets of any side, and that they were allowed to do what they could to get a story. I wish I can say that now. Today journalists face all kinds of dangers from kidnapping to being shot by soldiers or guerrillas for the fun of it to making some warlord angry who kills them out of spite. The job of a journalist was never easy, and now that they are seen as fair game this occupation has become one of the most dangerous in the world. One thing that news organizations should do now is make it very clear that all those heading into dangerous and unstable situations must know they are truly on their own—no rescue, no negotiations, and a real chance they might be horribly killed.

I have had close encounters, and I know that journalism, especially in many disturbed areas overseas, is a very real life and death situation. It is a very hard thing for me to write this, and saying to all those whose luck may run out that they are on their own. They must realize that if captured, shot at or killed, this all goes with the territory. I personally think that it was not a good idea to send in U.S. special forces to rescue a photojournalist who had put himself into such a situation. I will not argue with anyone who feels that they must do their job and follow their conscience in trying to report a story no matter what the dangers, but they should be aware that they may not come back the next day or the day after or even be rescued or released. As I said before the threat of being horribly killed goes with the territory. In my case, my days of covering any conflict or problem outside the Untied States (fortunately they were almost none) are long since over. I will simply sit back and live the rest of my life in relative peace. I never expected the Seventh Cavalry to come rescue me, and I have long gotten out of the game while my luck held out.

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