Courageous journalism

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The Independent Online

Journalism is a much despised trade, and it is all too easy to think that a free press and freedom of speech are just phrases. Too often they are, indeed, mocked by intrusion into the lives of both the famous and the unknown and by the diet of trivia and minor celebrity that mark out much of journalism as a branch of the entertainment industry.

Journalism is a much despised trade, and it is all too easy to think that a free press and freedom of speech are just phrases. Too often they are, indeed, mocked by intrusion into the lives of both the famous and the unknown and by the diet of trivia and minor celebrity that mark out much of journalism as a branch of the entertainment industry.

There is, however, a small core of journalism that is vitally important to the health of democratic society. Investigative journalism and war reporting will always make up a small proportion of the total, but demand disproportionate bravery of those who engage in them. Martin O'Hagan, who was shot dead in Northern Ireland at the weekend, was both an investigative journalist and a war reporter, killed by loyalist paramilitaries whose criminal activities he was probing. His courage, and that of Yvonne Ridley, arrested in Afghanistan, remind us just how precious our freedoms are.

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