Panel: Journalists increasingly targets as nature of warfare and media change

NEW YORK (AP) — The changing nature of warfare and the media has put reporters' lives more at risk than ever, journalists said Monday at a panel discussion sponsored by Reporters Without Borders.

So far, 13 journalists have been killed this year, according to the Paris-based group. This comes on the heels of the deadliest year ever for journalists, with 76 killed in 2009 — 30 of them in a single incident, covering an election on Mindanao Island in the Philippines.

"It's easier than ever to be a journalist, and it's easier than ever to get killed as a journalist," said David Rohde, the New York Times reporter who spent seven months in captivity after being kidnapped by the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2008. "I think there is much less respect for journalists as a neutral party."

Rohde said that the elimination of clear front lines in many conflict situations was partly to blame for the increasing danger.

This, he said, was coupled with an increase in the use of local journalists, as large news organizations scale back on foreign correspondents, and the rise of blogging and other social media as a news source.

Rohde said four out of five journalists killed last year were local journalists.

Emilio Gutierrez, the first Mexican reporter to seek political asylum in the United States, painted a bleak picture of journalism in his native country where reporters must practice self-censorship if they wish to survive and where they "are more threatened by the government than by the criminals."

"Those (journalists) who have better luck are in exile," said Gutierrez, whose asylum case must still be decided by a U.S. immigration judge — a decision that could have complicated diplomatic ramifications.

The panel "Reporter safety: a shared responsibility?" was moderated by Mike Oreskes, senior managing editor for The Associated Press, and held to commemorate World Press Freedom Day