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.

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40 Responses to Question of the Day: Should Journalists be Armed?

  1. every sane adult should carry a firearm everywhere. if this was the case there would probably be a lot less terror attacks for the media to report on. does that answerer the question?

  2. I come down on this the same way I do on arming teachers. Should all teachers (journalists) be armed? No. Should those who want to, who are responsible adults, be allowed to? Yes.

  3. Is this article intended as humor? Seriously, using words like truth and reporting in the same sentence….funny stuff.

  4. “violently attacked by gullible thugs whose beliefs were intellectually brittle enough to be threatened by a drawing”

    Freakin MARVELOUS description! Is that yours, or did you steal it?

  5. I’m ok with the news organizations wanting to protect their employees from politically motivated attack, but disarming them in the process? Big no-no. Let them be armed, if they so desire.

  6. Journalists at their headquarters, home, offices… absolutely, in a perfect world. Should they choose to.

    Journalists in a war zone… ideally, no, to protect their objective status and preserve their rights and protections under law. However, their are many accounts of war photogs, correspondents etc picking up a rifle in a “Broken Arrow” situation, when embedded with the “home team”. Nothing wrong with that, either.

  7. Journalists carrying firearms in war zones would make them “illegal combatants” according to the Geneva Conventions since they don’t have a uniform with a recognized flag on it. Yes, I know all of the Syrian rebels fall into this category as well as ISIS. I think it would make their kidnappers more likely to kill them and justify it with, “they were armed with more than cameras!” When they are home, especially if they work for a news or editorial publication that has been threatened, then they should be able to carry if they want for their own protection.

  8. I can see some merit to the idea that armed journalists covering a war zone undermine their assertion that they are nothing more than observers. I suppose that is up to the journalists to decide. I certainly won’t stand in their way one way or another.

    Of course governments use journalists to create favorable “news” and often outright propaganda which means journalists are usually de facto agents of a government. That being the case, if a journalist is a de facto agent of the enemy, why would a combatant release an agent of their enemy? Thus why would a journalist want to be unarmed?

    The only way I can see journalists being disarmed in a war zone is if they are from a neutral nation not involved in the war and the combatants on both sides are civilized and disciplined enough to leave neutral observers alone.

    As for journalists outside of war zones, it is their choice whether or not they are armed as they go about their vocation and lives. The unknown fact that a journalist carries a concealed handgun will not “skew” the statements of subjects that they interview. Thus I see no conflict with any purported standards of journalism or journalistic integrity. In fact being armed and thus less susceptible to intimidation may enable journalists to achieve higher levels of honesty and integrity.

  9. “Should Journalists be Armed?”

    Armed with the shield of anti-douchebagery, the helmet of non-agitprop, and the sword sanity.

  10. No. Jounalists have done a pretty thorough job of trying to disarm citizens. They should be banned from gun ownership and their companies should face criminal jail time for trying to hire armed security.

    Let the msm live the dream of a gun free environment.

  11. Hey this is a tough one. No it ain’t WW2 or Korea or even Vietnam. Everyone should have protection. I assume so-called journalists are grownups and take their safety seriously. I guess you’re on your own…

  12. Yes but only with semi automatic .9mm ceramic. Glock 7’s undeticable pistols with the safety on. And full assault magazine -clips

    Sarc/

  13. This is one of the worst articles I read on TTAG.

    If you are armed in war zone and you are not part of a standing army (or distinguished militia), you are not a civilian and yet the Geneva Conventions don’t apply to you. I understand that from Abu Ghraib to Guantanamo, Geneva conventions are not worth a single cent, but majority of countries and standing armies around the world still play by them.

    As regards being armed while conducting business back home? Well, they should have the same possibility to decide for themselves as any other person. And if they are on anyone’s blacklist, being armed is the only sane thing.

  14. Skynews = profiles in cowardice.

    Note this clip doesnt include the earlier bit where the speaker holds up the Hebdo cover, and the picture tilts slowly as the camera man tries to keep her face in focus, but avoid showing the magazine.

    Can just imagine the editor in the booth shrieking in horror…and that p.o.’d look on the face of the host is priceless. I imagine she’s a multi-culti-holyier-than-thou ROP’er as well, probably wet her panties on the spot.

  15. Joseph Galloway ( We were soldiers once…) was armed at least once while reporting in Vietnam:

    “Back at Quang Ngai airstrip it was getting near the end of the day. Henri explained that it was very dangerous at night and all the Americans usually flew back to Danang. But he had an idea: We would stay the night at the MACV Adviser compound nearby and get a much earlier start than those day-trippers the next morning. Sounded like a plan. At the gate of the compound a very tired looking American captain greeted us warmly. “We have been on 100% alert here for the last five days and nights. We are exhausted and need some relief. You guys are it.” He hooked me up with Saigon on his old-fashioned telephone switchboard. I was yelling down a bad line to Herndon in Saigon, telling him what we had seen that afternoon, when enemy mortar rounds fell on the South Vietnamese compound next door. I ducked under the switchboard and kept talking. Afterward, the captain handed us an M2 greasegun submachine gun and a handful of magazines. He showed us where we would sleep, in an empty bunkroom full of double-decker bunks. And where we would stand guard, in a sandbagged bunker facing a barbed-wire fence with a road beyond that. Henri would stand guard alone, from Midnight to 3 a.m. My turn was 3 a.m. to daybreak.

    I lay there in the dark unable to sleep till Henri shook my arm and gestured at the door. I took the gun and ammo and entered the bunker for the longest night of my life to that point. Midway through my tour the Viet Cong pulled a satchel charge attack on the South Vietnamese compound across the road. No one approached our fence. Finally the eastern sky began to brighten slightly. The night was nearly over. Thank God. Just then a Vietnamese on a bicycle with a huge bundle on the handlebars came into view, pedaling up that road. I leveled the gun, safety off, and told myself if he made one false move he was dead. About then the captain slapped me on the shoulder: “Son, if you shoot that man you are going to have to cook our breakfast. He’s the chef.” Whew.”

  16. I see a lot of hate toward journalists… they’re human beings who, regardless of their point of view, have a universal, individual right to self-defense.
    That said, being officially a non-combatant yet implicitly asking both sides to hold their fire, while wearing a weapon, sounds sort of… precarious.
    In the heat and chaos of battle, anyone not easily identified as on the side of either group of combatants could be targeted by either side… the presence of a weapon, even with a camera and/or field production equipment, would in effect serve as a “marker.”

    • No, they’re not human beings.

      They’re the primate equivalent of rats on a ship. Vermin, spreading disease, filth and eating their substance out of the mouths of men doing productive work, sitting in the shadows, spectating upon the toil and labor of productive humanity, carping, chattering and gossiping about the actions of men who would make a difference in the course of history with their lives.

      Journalists attack, at every turn, the civil liberties of people in western secular democracies, and the reaction of journalists to the terrorist attack on the French magazine’s staff shows that they are boot-licking cowards who won’t even defend their own freedom of press or speech.

      As far as I’m concerned, “journalists” are lower than dog shit on the bottom of my boots. If they die due to their stupidity, it will be an example of how the universe eventually rights wrongs, and I for one will celebrate their deaths due to their own feckless stupidity.

  17. It’s dicey in a war zone, i.e. if you were a journalist and armed, your (minimal) legal protections go out the window. Though yeah if it got really nasty, pick up a rifle and shoot back if it comes down to either you or them. I remember Geraldo Rivera announced on live TV that he was armed in Afghanistan and the journalism world collectively lost their s–t.

    http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/news/589257/posts

    – Rivera, speaking on Fox News Channel last week, said that “if they’re going to get us, it’s going to be in a gunfight.” But when asked specifically by an anchor whether he had a gun, he was reluctant to talk about it, finally nodding yes. –

    Back home in the US? Carry all you want. I know more than a few journalists and support professionals (engineers, drivers, etc…) who carry despite the objections of their employers. Concealed is concealed.

    • Wait a minute… I thought Geraldo Rivera was a typical “nobody needs a gun” journolista. Or maybe he’s evolved into one of those “for me not thee” types. I find it hard to believe he’s seen the light when it comes to firearms.

  18. Here in Detroit, every roving TV reporter and every member of their teams carries. This dates back long befoe Michigan’s 2004 shall issue legislation. One of the few positive things you can say about Detroit journalists: none are suicidal.

  19. I’ve known a journalist who carried against company policy after receiving death threats from corrupt local business owners. Important and honest reporting often makes one a target, shame the company policies at many news organizations don’t value employee lives.

  20. If I’m not mistaken Joe Galloway picked up an M-16 during the Ia Drang fight. The NVA wasn’t recognizing American journalists’ observer status at the moment. The news media seems to believe their own propaganda that they are seen as neutral observers. You would think that after a few reporters had their bodies seperated from their heads they would have figure out this wasn’t the case.

  21. “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 . . .”

    This is the lynch-pin statement in the article. Wars are no longer fought according to the kinds of historical understandings that allowed some defined as a “journalist” to be treated as a sacrosanct personage on a field of battle. Those kinds of customs, like not shooting at medics from the other side, were always ephemeral at best and always more than a little suspect by all concerned. (That “medic” in WWII sometimes turned out to be a forward artillery observer, for example.) When you’re facing something like Boko Haram or ISIS, military organizations which don’t recognize the rules, expecting to be safer by not being armed has been recently shown as being a great way to lose your head.

    The reluctance of news organizations to arm their reporters stems from the same closely held values which cause people to support “gun-free zones” even when it is shown that such spaces actually function as ready-made targets for terrorists and spree-killers. You have to wonder just how loud the message must be before they begin to realize what kind of danger they’re in.

  22. To all you non-believers….capitulate or be conquered. (You shall be given a temporary pass Sky News and CNN)

  23. Journalists, and/or most other liberals, feel that their moral superiority will protect them, and if all else fails, they think they can resort to reasoning with their attacker.

  24. The question is never “should _________ be armed?” It’s “should __________ be able to arm themselves if they want to?”

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