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Editor’s Column: Journalists Must Retain Valor In Story Coverage

By Kassondra Granata

Malala Yousafzai, a 15-year-old Pakistani schoolgirl, is known throughout the world as a teenage education activist. Yousafazi is from the town of Mingora in the Swat District of Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunhwa province.

In 2009, Yousafazi wrote a blog for the BBC describing her life under the Taliban rule, outlining their attempts to take over the valley, and also advocating education for young girls. The New York Times proceeded to film a documentary on her life, and soon she began to give interviews in print and on television to those who were influenced by her bravery.

On Oct 9, Yousafazi was on her way home on a school bus when she was shot in the head and neck by Taliban gunmen. Doctors said that the bullet grazed Yousafazi’s brain and struck her just above her left eye, according to an article by BBC.

The Pakistani Taliban said it shot Yousafazi because she “promoted secularism.” To be secular, one must denote attitudes, activities, or other things that have no religious or spiritual basis. Another reason why the Taliban shot Yousafazi is because she called President Barack Obama her idol.

The Queen Elizabeth Hospital, where Yousafazi is currently located, has received more than 4,000 letters of support for Yousafazi. According to an article published by BBC news Monday night, the hospital released a statement:

“Malala continues to make steady progress and is in a stable condition at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham. She has now been in the hospital for one week, under the care of a specialist team from both the Queen Elizabeth and Birmingham Children’s hospitals.”
Because of this event, media all across the world have committed their time to covering Yousafazi’s recovery. Print publications, and TV stations have shown pictures of Yousafazi in the Queen Elizabeth Hospital surrounded by doctors.

Alongside the Taliban aiming to silence this young activist, it is also striving to silence journalists criticizing the attack in Pakistan. According to CNN, the statements that the Taliban is releasing is making it even more frightening to be a journalist in Pakistan.

Despite all of the threats, journalists in the area are still going to cover the story to its full potential. They are not going to let the Taliban thwart them from doing their job.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), a group in New York that promotes press freedom around the world, more journalists were killed in Pakistan than in any other country in both 2010 and 2011. Threats not only come from just violent groups, but government agencies as well.

As a journalist, it is difficult not to be shaken up by this particular statistic. It is not uncommon, however, that journalists have been harmed for reporting the truth by those who are against it in some way. It is completely rational that journalists should continue to cover Yousafazi’s story as well as others that may follow under the hands of the Taliban.

One has to be thick-skinned to be a journalist. Under the job description, it cried out the word, “fearless.” Being a journalist requires the audacity to cover a controversial event, whether it may hit home or not. It requires the courage to go on the scene of a horrific incident and make sure it hits the stands the next day.

I commend journalists in Pakistan and other dangerous areas covering events and stories as grave as Yousafazi’s. In all honesty, if Malala Yousafazi is valiant enough to stand against the Taliban, then those reporting her story should follow her footsteps.