Most major news outlets bar their journalists from carrying firearms, even if they’re in a war zone. The Committee to Protect Journalists, advises against it on their website noting that carrying a gun “can undermine your status as an observer and, by extension, the status of all other journalists working in the conflict area.” Many major news organizations — such as the New York Times, and CNN — refuse to let their journalists carry firearms, supposedly for their own safety. Certainly, if I was a soldier in wartime that found someone running around with a recording device asking a lot of nosy questions and with a firearm of some kind, the best reaction I’d have was that he was a spy who needs to be held until the MPs can haul him to the stockade. So maybe that policy makes some kind of sense, in a typical war zone fought between various nations . . .
But a typical war fought between standing armies from two or more nation-states? These aren’t the 1950s anymore. Fighting now is less a clash of nations and more an armed ideological struggle, with the entire world as the potential battlefield, as recent attacks in places as far-flung as Paris, Canada, Australia, and (last but certainly not least) Nigeria show. Sky News, MSNBC, and CNN refused to show images of the recent Charlie Hebdo cover because….well, when you boil it down, they were self-censoring because they were afraid that their employees might suffer the same fate as the ones at Charlie Hebdo’s offices – violently attacked by gullible thugs whose beliefs were intellectually brittle enough to be threatened by a drawing.
The decision by Sky News above, however craven it may be, makes a certain amount of business sense. If you’re going to disarm your own employees, perhaps you shouldn’t court disaster by showing an image that will incense a faction known to be both violent and armed.
But in that case, how can we trust Sky News (or any other journalists from a major outlet) to speak truth to power when they are being specifically targeted? It’s tough enough to take a stand when you’re backed up by your own training and weapons — here, journalists’ own employers and institutions forbid them from picking up some basic tools and training that might help them save their own lives.
It is time for the major press organizations to discard these anti-gun policies; by disarming their own employees all they are doing is playing into the hands of those who seek to censor the news by violence and fear.