Effect Measure

Good night and good luck

The war in Iraq is going down as history’s most dangerous for journalists. War correspondents have some idea what they are getting into, however. Reporters covering local funerals of bird flu victims and poultry culling operations are usually general beat reporters and didn’t sign up for ultra hazardous duty. Now the Indonesian press corps is starting to worry.

”I really feel strongly that the issue of health and safety of reporters covering avian flu must be addressed by the management of news organizations,” said Daenk Haryono of the North Sumatra-based ‘Harian Global’ daily.

”Many times I’ve seen my colleagues go out to the field, not aware that they should be at least wearing face masks and gloves,” he added. ”It seems like the editors just want our stories and couldn’t give a damn about our safety,”

Haryono has every reason to worry. Two reporters have so far been admitted to hospital, suspected to be suffering from avian influenza or bird flu. The latest victim from the popular ‘Tempo’ daily was rushed to hospital last week when he developed high fever after covering the mass culling of chickens and the funeral of a bird flu victim in West Java. (IPS)

The News Safety Institute in Brussels has issued some general guidelines to reporters, such as advice to avoid dirct ontact with any poultry, but especially sick or dead poultry or places where they have likely contaminated things; to wash their hands often and defintely after any potential contact; to consider wearing personal protective great such as masks or gloves; be aware of flu like symptoms near a potential exposure for at lest 10 days.

Yeah, right. It’s doubtful how many reporters know these guidelines and even if they do, they present problems. People who have no protection are not thrilled to talk to reporters wearing masks and gloves.

While face masks are deemed as standard protection gear, many journalists complained that villagers often didn’t want to talk to them if they wore one.

”It’s really difficult getting interviews if I were to wear a face mask,” said Iir Sairoh of the West Java-based ‘Radio Cindelaras’. ”I seem to scare off people with it,” she added.

But the radio journalist revealed that not wearing a face mask, each time she conducted an interview has a traumatizing effect on her.

”It’s okay when I’m doing the interview, with the adrenalin flowing to beat the deadline. But after I’ve filed my piece that’s when I become scared,” she told the seminar.

”That’s when I realise that I haven’t had any protection and it just plays on and on in my head that I’m going to get sick and die,” said Sairoh, while sharing her experiences with her colleagues.

Sairoh revealed that once she had a fever after returning from a village where there was a bird flu outbreak.

”That was very scary and I told myself that if the fever persisted for another day I would go to the nearest hospital. Fortunately it did not,” she said. ”Maybe I’m just a hypochondriac,” added Sairoh, laughing it off. (IPS)

So much for the guidelines and so much for surveillance. Masks? No one knows if they do any good or which ones are the right ones (if any). Gloves? How do you dispose of them? Do you reuse them?

So far we know of no confirmed cases of H5N1 in reporters covering the story. But I don’t blame them for worrying. I’d worry, too.


  1. #1 Ana
    June 25, 2006

    Increasingly, reporters, and any foreign people of a non-threatening type from the West (NGO, UN, other cooperative schemes, health workers, charitable telecom types, ladies running seminars on women s position, etc. etc.) are in an ambiguous position.

    On the one hand, they are there to report, or to help in some way, most often absolutely genuinely, but often naively.

    On the other, their affiliation is to the West.

    They can no longer be seen as individuals.

    How can Iraqis, for example, see their country bombed to bits by the bad guys, and then accept that good guys from the same country, community, come in to pretend to repair the damage? No wonder they killed Sergio Viera de Mello, the UN was complicit to begin with…

    And when these individuals innocently flout their dominant group status – with good clothes, special cars, guards, translators, performing cell phones, enough food, etc. – they put themselves in the camp of the occupier or oppressor without meaning to.

    Why should a Western reporter have to hand protective measures such as a mask or water to wash when the people whom he talks to could never even dream of acquiring such protection, while not even really knowing what the protection is for? I can t think of a better way to make people uneasy than to signal that their very physical presence (as a breathing body, not a menacing armed crowd for ex.) is dangerous , and that therefore as people they are stigmatised.

    The fact that journalist in Iraq have died like flies is an outcome of that ambiguity, with the blows coming from the other end. Many of them imagined that they could report honestly (though no doubt there were some cynical embeds who knew they would make it thru) – they did not understand that they could not put their hearts and guts and genuine insight into their dispatches – they belong to the occupier class and must toe the official line. Iraq, say, has been liberated and is now a hearts-n-flowers democracy. Deviating too far from that script cost many of them their lives. As we know, most of them died, not at the hands of Iraqis, but in mysterious circumstances.

  2. #2 Thinlina
    June 25, 2006

    Could you distinguished experts please evaluate the credibilidity/validity of this news?


  3. #3 revere
    June 25, 2006

    Thinlina: Lab accidents of this type happen and usually produce nothing bad. I have no way to evaluate whether this happened or the veracity of the reporting (I believe this is a tabloid given to sensationalism, but a UK reader might know their rep better). The quote from Clifford Warwick (“bird flu expert”) sounds like bullshit to me. As far as I know he is an animal rights activist whose expertise, such as it is, is in reptile biology which would hardly make him a bird flu expert, although the animal rights people are always down on the labs because they do animal experimentation and the control measures for bird flu result in mass slaughter of birds. I have no opinion on animal rights, although I agree with Peter Singer that they don’t have “rights” but they certainly have “interests.”

    This doesn’t sound like an important event to me. Just my opinion.

  4. #4 Thinlina
    June 25, 2006

    Thanks for giving an opinion. What do you think about the idea of h5n1 going undetected in one’s body for years and then take hold in some situation when immune system is down for some reason? Is it possible? Haven’t heard about that kind of persistence in connection with H5N1 before 😮 Sounds more like HSV or VZV or EBV to me, but not influenza. Or can it be dormant for ages?

  5. #5 revere
    June 25, 2006

    Thinlina: I’ve not heard of this. A person can be a healthy human carrier while infected and the virus is replicating for a week or so, but I’ve not heard of it remaining latent for periods of years (or even months) and then start replicating. The reference to “getting into red blood cells” is also improbable since the virus needs genetic machinery to replicate. It does latch on to the surface of red blood cells via HA but the life of an rbc is only 120 days and a hemagglutinated virus is not infective as far as I know. While there is much we don’t know and that might be possible (speculation being required), this doesn’t sound well informed to me.

  6. #6 M. Randolph Kruger
    June 25, 2006

    Israel quarantined 3? reporters early in the year after the bug was found in dust and doo on their shoes, cameras and equipment. They had been happily trotting back and forth from their cars to and from the infected areas… Looking for the newslink. Might want to remember this if it breaks that reporters could be unknowing carriers.

  7. #7 Marissa
    June 25, 2006

    I absolutely agree Revere. And btw, the Mirror is not exactly a reputable rag. There are quite a few bugs that “hide in plain sight,” as it were, but flu viruses are not part of that group. Now over to my flu expert “Willie…” [Miaow] Willie says flu can be bad for you. 🙂

  8. #8 Trina Bashore
    June 25, 2006

    On May 20th The Mirror described a Lady with Ebola on Virgin Airlines contaminating people.

  9. #9 Thinlina
    June 26, 2006

    Ok. Your reactions are about the same that I thought. I’ll remove the “news”. Thanks for being there 🙂

  10. #10 Thinlina
    June 26, 2006

    Considering the NEJM scandal, what do you think about this news now?

    Would anyone have an update to the case?

  11. #11 Easy Hiker
    June 26, 2006

    “The war in Iraq is going down as history’s most dangerous for journalists.” This comment triggers some feelings I’ve wanted to express about war.

    Revere, I need to question the accuracy of your statement. First, let me emphatically state I find ALL war regrettable, especially the unnecessary one currently under way in Iraq. But as I look at the history of war it appears to me the manner in which war is waged has become dramatically LESS deadly with time. Some examples to justify that statement. After Hannibal got to the Romans he set quite a record of killing about 56,000 warriors in one battle over a couple days. Japanese soldiers slaughtered 300,000 Chinese old men, women, and children over a couple days. The river ran red with the blood.

    On D-Day in Normandy over 2,000 men died in just one day. We’ve been at war in Iraq for years and just passed 2,500 dead. American incendiary bombs in Tokyo killed hundreds of thousands of civilians — intentionally as part of the war strategy. Similarly American bombers killed many thousands of German civilians while destroying the weapons and munitions plants and oil fields. The war in Afghanistan and Iraq uses precision laser-guided single warheads that target known military leaders. We track and target them for months and destroy those deemed most necessary. And military targets are similarly singled out. The enemy intentionally uses their own innocent civilians as human shields (Saddam’s munitions in a hospital for example). And yes, there are mistakes made due to that ubiquitous “fog of war” that is probably used far too often.

    While the world rightly condemned the US invasion of Iraq, the US simply would not have dared engage in the wholesale slaughter on the scale I’ve cited above. I think a debt is owed to the journalists for preventing that. They would report it and hold individuals accountable!!

    Let me reiterate — I abhor war and feel it should be used as a horrible last resort. But just in those few comparisons it appears to me that war, in general, has become far LESS deadly over time. I therefore question the assertion of the Iraq War being the most deadly for journalists. Based on what? Journalists killed per month? Per 1,000 soldiers or civilians killed? Or just total?

    It occurs to me this is a sick thing to impune. I’m going to post it anyway. Perhaps I’m just looking for some kind of indication that things are getting better. Still, I experienced war in Viet Nam and vicariously through family in Korea and WW II. I really think the manner in which war is waged is getting much less deadly overall. Fewer people die on BOTH sides. Maybe, someday, we can reduce that number to zero. Probably not, but at least the trend is in the right direction, I think. War is one helluva public health problem. But maybe the world is making progress??????

    Now if we could just get it through our leaders heads to use it ONLY as the VERY LAST RESORT. And maybe listen to the people before going to war. But then the President AND congress didn’t listen before and they are not listening now. Politicians and diapers both need to be changed frequently — and for the same reasons.

  12. #12 revere
    June 26, 2006

    Easy Hiker: Current toll in Iraq: 74 journalists and 27 media support workers according to the Committee to Protect Journalists since March 2003. Here are the available numbers for other wars:

    Central American conflicts: Freedom Forum, a nonpartisan foundation dedicated to free press, lists 89 journalists killed for the years 1979-89.
    Argentina: Freedom Forum lists 98 for the years 1976-1983.
    Vietnam: Freedom Forum lists 66 journalists killed covering the conflict in Vietnam from 1955-1975. The Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan, which surveyed the years 1962-75, lists 71 journalists killed.
    Korean War: Freedom Forum lists 17 journalists killed.
    World War II: Freedom Forum lists 68.
    World War I: Freedom Forum lists 2.

  13. #13 marissa
    June 27, 2006

    ThinLina: While we don’t know the origin of the disease that has hits students in Beijing, we’re sure it’s not H5N1.

  14. #14 Thinlina
    June 27, 2006

    marissa, oh yes 😉 that’s how it must be…

  15. #15 Easy Hiker
    June 27, 2006

    Revere: Thank you for responding.

    I’m humbled by and grateful for the journalists. They really are combatants in the conflict and make their own unique contribution. It is a meaningful and important positive contribution too. We owe them much for keeping us informed of what would otherwise be kept secret. It appears journalists have become a more intrinsic part of warfare than ever before. There’s probably a story in that too. Freedom isn’t free and neither is a free press.

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