The chance of getting killed on the job is a risk clause that is written in bold print for every journalist working in the conflict zone. But they believe, both men and women, that there is a job to be done which is more important than fearing the stray bullet or the threat of kidnapping, torture, harassment and illegal confinement. It is this conviction that still brings droves of them to the war-zones of Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia and other places few would dare to tread. Both Anja Niedringhaus, a photographer, and her colleague, Kathy Gannon, were aware of the job hazards, and had learnt, over long years in conflict areas, how best to balance their instinct for survival with their commitment to the job. And yet, nothing could prepare them for the surprise attack from a member of the security force assigned to protect them. Niedringhaus is dead and Ms Gannon is seriously injured from bullets pumped into them by an officer of the Afghan national army. The two journalists were targeted not because of their job, or their gender, but because of what they were seen to represent — the West. Just like foreign embassies, foreign military posts and bases, foreign workers are the latest targets of militant attacks. For over months now, aid workers, expatriates and journalists have been specifically targeted to vent the anti-West, anti-American sentiment that is robustly felt in Afghanistan. This is part of the ‘psychological war’ that the Taliban has initiated to scupper the planned transition in Afghanistan. Unfortunately, the Taliban psychology is not restricted to members of the groupings. As the green on blue attacks in Afghanistan have repeatedly shown, and the attack on the two journalists shows again, many in the Afghan army and the people share the sentiment. When the president of the nation, Hamid Karzai, fails to dispassionately condemn such killings — as he failed to do during the attack on a Lebanese restaurant in Kabul in January — he is also seen to share it.
It may be argued that the tragedy that has befallen the two journalists, and many others like them in Afghanistan, is no different from the daily tragedy in the lives of more ordinary Afghans. That is also what the two journalists were trying to convey to the world. But targeting journalists, or foreigners, is to kill the messenger together with the message and hardly any way to win reprieve for Afghanistan’s suffering.