Risks and Recklessness in Journalism

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Our colleague Massimo Calabresi knows a lot about the risks a reporter must take to uncover the truth in an international danger zone. From 1995 to 1999, Massimo covered wars in Bosnia, Croatia and Kosovo for TIME. He was once detained in Serb-held Bosnia while investigating mass graves there as part of a reporting project that earned TIME a citation of excellence from the Overseas Press Club. That was one of two such citations; the other was for his journalism inside Kosovo during the 1999 war there, which uncovered mass killings and war crimes. The bullet-riddled armored truck that he and photographer Chris Morris drove in and out of Sarajevo during the siege in 1995 is now on display in the Newseum.

Here are his thoughts upon watching the arrival home yesterday of Laura Ling and Euna Lee:

For those weighing the pros and cons of democratization in journalism, the
four-month North Korean detention of Laura Ling and Euna Lee is instructive.
Ling’s sister told CNN Thursday night that the journalists, who work for Al
Gore’s user-driven Current TV, briefly crossed into North Korea before they
were detained by border guards. Eventually the full horror visited on North
Korea by its leadership will be revealed and perhaps the two women were
trying to advance that goal. Pyongyang deserves no credit for its behavior.
But the journalists crossed an internationally recognized border without
permission, and there are very few stories that justify breaking the law.
Much effort and some diplomatic capital was expended to get the two women
released. A news organization fielding a seasoned TV crew overseen by
experienced editors would not have crossed the line in North Korea.