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Editorial: In the Line of Duty

NBC News chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel’s harrowing ordeal in Syria put an exclamation point on the always-current dangers involved in being the world’s eyes and ears in troubled times and places. Sadly, however, it was only the latest in a growing number of incidents that have resulted in anything from psychological torture—Engel and company had to endure mock executions—to injury and death.

It was almost a year ago that we watched the U.K.’s Sunday Times reporter Marie Colvin, her familiar eye patch the result of a 2001 Sri Lankan ambush, reporting on CNN about the death of a child as collateral damage in the Syrian uprising. A day later, she was dead, the victim of an attack on her makeshift pressroom.

The dead are broadcast, online and print reporters, commentators, columnists, videographers, photographers, producers, technicians, editors and publishers. The Committee to Protect Journalists says 70 journalists were killed in the line of duty around the world in 2012, “one of the deadliest years since CPJ began keeping detailed records in 1992,” according to the group. The leading cause of workplace-related deaths for journalists? Murder.

Syria was by far the most dangerous place to be; 28 journalists were killed there covering the fighting last year. That total had risen to 30 confirmed as of early January. Five other journalists died in Syria, but the motives in those deaths have not been con! rmed.

The total was also boosted by record shootings in Somalia (accounting for 12 deaths), and violence in Pakistan (seven deaths) and Brazil (four deaths). Overall, 2012 saw a 42% increase in journalist deaths from 2011; war, politics and human rights were the most dangerous beats.

Internet journalists were harder hit than in previous years, according to CPJ, most likely because there are many more of them now. One of those, the committee says, was citizen journalist Anas Al- Tarsha, a 17-year-old videographer who was killed by a mortar round while documenting unrest in the city of Homs, Syria. His was one of four journalist deaths in Homs during a single week.

Freelancer deaths were also above the historical average, as were those of camera operators and photographers.

We are always reminded, as we review the rolls of fallen journalists, of the network accountant who once begrudged a journalist a trip to cover the Cannes Film Festival while apparently not having a problem with the reporter being called in the middle of the night to jump on a plane and report from a war zone. The cost or value of some things can’t be weighed on the scales of profit and loss.

We are also reminded of The Wall Street Journal’s Daniel Pearl, a former Washington media beat reporter who was kidnapped and murdered in 2002 while covering Islamic extremists in Pakistan. It’s hard to believe he’ll be gone 11 years next month, given how raw his loss remains.

The following are the 70 journalists who CPJ has confirmed lost their lives in 2012 while bringing the news to their respective countries— and the world:

Bwizamani Singh, Al-Hosseiny Abou Deif, Kazbek Gekkiyev, Naji Asaad, Mohamed Quratem, Guillermo Quiroz Delgado, Mohamed al-Khal, Saqib Khan, Basel Tawfiq Youssef, Eduardo Carvalho, Hussam Salama, Mahmoud al-Kumi, Hozan Abdel Halim Mahmoud, Rehmatullah Abid, Adrián Silva Moreno, Sattar Beheshti, Mohamed Mohamud Turyare, Ahmed Farah Ilyas, Mohammed al-Ashram, Mushtaq Khand, Mona al-Bakkour, Abdul Haq Baloch, Maya Naser, Hassan Yusuf Absuge, Liban Ali Nur, Abdisatar Daher Sabriye, Abdirahman Yasin Ali, Abdel Karim al-Oqda, Yusuf Ahmed Deeb, Hang Serei Odom, Tamer al-Awam, Daudi Mwangosi, Mosaab al-Obdaallah, Mika Yamamoto, Ali Abbas, Hatem Abu Yehia, Valério Luiz de Oliveira, Byron Baldeón, Mohammad Shamma, Sami Abu Amin, Jamal Uddin, Abdul Qadir Hajizai, Ahmed al- Assam, Bassel al-Shahade, Ahmed Adnan, Lawrence Fahmy al-Naimi, Ammar Mohamed Suhail Zado, Ahmed Addow Anshur, Razaq Gul, Farhan Jeemis Abdulle, Décio Sá, Ali Shaaban, Leiron Kogoya, Mahad Salad Adan, Ahmed Ismail Hassan, Ali Ahmed Abdi, Rajesh Mishra, Abukar Hassan Mohamoud, Anas al-Tarsha, Rémi Ochlik, Marie Colvin, Rami al-Sayed, Mario Randolfo Marques Lopes, Mazhar Tayyara, Hassan Osman Abdi, Enenche Akogwu, Mukarram Khan Aatif, Wisut “Ae” Tangwittayaporn, Gilles Jacquier and Christopher Guarin.

We wish we did not have to print such a list. Most of the names won’t be especially familiar, but what these journalists all shared was a willingness to put themselves in danger so that war and conflict could be more than a distant echo of someone else’s cries. We salute them, and we mourn them.