We all know that there are circumstances where journalists put themselves at risk in order to cover a story. Camera men, reporters, and photo journalists frequently report from war zones and come under the same fire as the soldiers they are reporting on and run the same if not larger risks. For unlike the soldiers, they aren't in a position to defend themselves. Yet while it is true that journalists are at risk under fire, it is only on rare occasions that they are deliberately targeted during these situations.
In his introduction to Human Rights Watch's World Report 2008 called "Despots Masquerading As Democrats," Kenneth Roth, Director of Human Rights Watch, wrote that silencing the media is one of the ways that a government has of ensuring the denial of the democratic process to their people. Now there are many ways that a government can do this: creating laws that control the media; allowing monopoly ownership of the media in return for favourable coverage; censorship; and either directly killing, or turning a blind eye to the killing of journalists.
It's no coincidence that one of the first things that a government does when it wants to control how its people think is that it seeks to control the mass media. Even in North America--with our so-called free press--we have seen how easy it is for governments to sway public opinion when they are able to manipulate the media properly. Yet this behaviour pales in comparison to countries where journalists are murdered on a regular basis and the government attitude has done nothing to discourage this behaviour.
In The Silencing, a new book published by Viggo Mortensen's Perceval Press, multi-talented artist Alix Lambert has compiled a collection of interviews, essays, and photographs that tell the story of six Russian journalists killed for being good at their jobs. For each of the six individuals, Ms. Lambert has visited the murder site and photographed it and interviewed a family member and/or colleague to tell us a little about the person who was murdered.
In her introduction, Ms. Lambert says that with the photographs she was trying to represent the sense of absence, what had happened, what might still happen, and that they are about possibility, loss, death, pain, passion, yet also about hope. The essays aren't necessarily about the murder, or even what the story was that the person was working on that resulted in their murder--although in some of them that is mentioned. Instead they are about the person and what they meant to the person writing the essay.