Rohollah Faghini, a Tehran-based Iranian who has worked as a journalist for more than a decade, said the event shocked reporters in his country. “I have seen news of shootings in America, but I have never seen people shooting at journalists. Even in Iran, I’ve never seen something like this happen,” he said.
Christopher Miller, an American who writes for Radio Free Europe from Kiev, Ukraine, said he reacted to the news with “measured shock” because he has been observing changes in the press environment in the United States for several years.
After newsroom shootings, a quick collapse into blame and division in a polarized country
According to a report released by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press this year, there were 45 physical attacks on journalists in the United States in 2017. The report also recorded 19 “egregious public threats” made to reporters and media organizations, 17 of them by President Trump, who has referred to the media as “the enemy of the people” on multiple occasions.
“This is something we see from authoritarian leaders in the former Soviet Union, not the sort of rhetoric that we’re used to see Western leaders use,” Miller said. “Journalists from this part of the world have always looked to the U.S. and the West as a bastion of free speech . . . [but] in the last couple of years, in my conversations with journalists in Belarus, Russia and Ukraine, they’re shocked at what they’ve heard.”
In 2016, a Ukrainian journalist and a good friend of Miller’s, Pavel Sheremet, died mysteriously in a car bombing near his house. Sheremet worked as an investigative reporter in Russia, Ukraine and Belarus for decades, receiving dozens of threats in his lifetime. Two years after the bombing, his case remains unsolved. Dozens took to the streets in central Kiev last year to ask, “Who killed Pavel Sheremet?”
I’m a Ukrainian journalist, and I’m tired of living in fear
“I have seen what happens when the media is targeted by people in power, when they are targeted because of their work,” Miller said. Journalists in the United States, he added, “now need to think about their reporting in a way that a correspondent has to: with escape plans and personal safety plans.”
Khaled Diab, a Belgian-Egyptian journalist in Tunisia, agreed. “As a journalist based in the Middle East, I know what the vilification of the media — what results it can achieve,” he said. “I’m very concerned for my American colleagues.”
By and large, reporters in the United States operate in a markedly safer environment than in places such as Russia, North Korea or Saudi Arabia, all of which were ranked near the bottom in terms of press freedoms this year. But according to foreign correspondents, what sets the country apart is the easy access to firearms.
“The combination of [Trump’s] demonizing rhetoric and the lax gun laws is a very toxic and potent cocktail,” Diab said.
For Cherian George, a Singaporean professor of media studies in Hong Kong and a former reporter at the Straits Times in Singapore, the Annapolis shooting was not particularly shocking, given the history of gun violence in the United States.
“The world already finds it inexplicable that a civilized country like the U.S. considers it tolerable and acceptable to have this degree of gun violence as a routine part of their lives,” he said. “[This is] a country that cannot protect children from being gunned down regularly in their own schools — why should anyone expect that newsrooms are safe?”
Trump says journalists should be able to do their jobs without fear of violent attack
I’m feeling like a kid in America after the shootings of my fellow journalists