CNN’s Latest on Perils for the Press in Ukraine

From CNN’s Reliable Sources:

Perils for the press

War correspondents attend training workshops and travel with protective gear. They take common-sense precautions and consult with security experts in the field. But the danger, even when minimized, never disappears.

And the dangers right now in Ukraine are extraordinary even by war zone standards.

Reporters have been “shot at, shelled, robbed, and detained by Russian forces as they cover the war and the ongoing humanitarian crisis it has caused,” as the Committee to Protect Journalists wrote on Monday. 

With Sunday’s death of Brent Renaud still reverberating in the minds of journalists and officials, we learned on Monday that Fox News correspondent Benjamin Hall was injured while reporting near Kyiv. Fox said Hall was hospitalized and indicated that the network had minimal information about his condition. At the time I’m writing this, 10pm US ET, there is enormous concern about Hall.

“Our thoughts are with him, his family, and all of his colleagues, and we wish him a full recovery,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said Monday evening. “We stand ready to assist in any way we can.”

Prayers for Fox correspondent

Seconding what Anderson Cooper and Victor Blackwell said on the air when the news broke, our thoughts are with Hall and his family right now.

— Fox colleagues sent well wishes via Twitter. Alex Hogan called Hall “a bright and talented journalist… but more importantly a good and kind person.” Lauren Blanchard said he is “a top notch reporter and the most loving father…”

— Hall, who has years of experience reporting from conflict zones, was named Fox’s State Department correspondent last November. State’s association of reporters praised his warmth and good humor

Shep Smith spoke about his former colleague on CNBC Monday night: “I’ve known Benji as a consummate professional, a respected journalist of the highest standards, and a wonderful man…”

“Very difficult terrain to operate in”

PBS “NewsHour” correspondent Jane Ferguson put the threats into words with this Twitter thread on Monday.This war is incredibly tough to cover as a field reporter – unlike any I have seen or experienced before, and many colleagues would agree,” she wrote. “The intense artillery which reaches for miles, and vague fluidity of various army positions means there is no ‘front line’. The Russian presence of ‘saboteurs’ inside Ukraine not only means they can pop up pretty much anywhere, and often way before you think you’ve reached ‘the front’, but also leaves the Ukrainian soldiers incredibly jumpy.”

Ferguson recounted being pulled out of a car at gunpoint on Monday when soldiers “thought we were filming them from our car.” Each incident is different, she said, “and the press pack here are all incredibly experienced at war reporting. It’s just a very difficult terrain to operate in and one where many of us are having to figure it out as we go along. Not something anyone really wants to have to do.”

Dangers are “increasing by the day”

Summer Lopez, the director of the Free Expression Programs at PEN America, said Monday, “The dangers facing journalists on the ground in Ukraine are increasing by the day… Courageous reporters are putting their lives on the line to tell the world the horrific truth of this war. The risks of war reporting are always high, but wherever journalists are being targeted directly, it is a violation of international law. All efforts must be made to ensure their protection…”

What Putin wants

On “The Lead,” Jake Tapper pointed out that Russian officials are “lying” about Renaud: “Today, Russia’s ambassador to the UN said that journalist Brent Renaud was not a journalist, and they called him a filmmaker. They said he was killed by Ukrainian forces, not Russian forces. Renaud was a journalist. He was also a documentary filmmaker… Not only does the chief of police in Kyiv say the shooters were Russians, other journalists in that convoy — who survived — say it was Russians shooting them.”

Tapper’s guest Nic Robertson, CNN’s international diplomatic editor, said “Russia wants to stamp out any information that it doesn’t regard as legitimate,” and this effort extends to Ukraine. “It is quite clear that Russia will go to great lengths to stifle those voices,” Robertson said. “Arresting people at home, and in Ukraine, clearly much worse…”

 >> Joshua Benton‘s tribute to Renaud: “if there’s even a single thing about Sunday that makes any sense, it might be that Brent Renaud died telling the stories of people caught up in some of humanity’s darkest situations. That’s what Brent — with his brother and filmmaking partner Craig Renaud — did all his career…”

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