Former BBC war correspondent Martin Bell on Comment is Free says: "The bloody release of the British journalist Stephen Farrell raises issues of importance to consumers as well as gatherers of news. The New York Times journalist had been assigned, or more likely assigned himself, to a dangerous mission for sound journalistic reasons."
Bell writes: "The effects of allied air strikes in Afghanistan are almost always disputed, and can only be verified by old-fashioned boots-on-the-ground reporting. This was Stephen Farrell's stock in trade. He had a reputation for going further forward than others, inevitably at some risk to himself and whoever accompanied him. And so he visited the scene of last Friday's air strike. He talked to eyewitnesses and survivors.
"The truth is that good old-fashioned journalism is no longer possible in today's war zones, and especially in Afghanistan. Hence the rise of rooftop journalism, in which sharply dressed reporters address the camera from inside fortified compounds. They may be near the scene but they are not at it. To get closer, they need the protection of the military. As a result, the most consequential war of our time is reported principally by "embeds", journalists embedded for short periods with army units. It is a trade-off for freedom for access."
Bell warns: "As the details and lessons of this latest incident sink in, we are likely to be told even less. It would be hard to think of an incident more poisonous to relations between the military and the press than one in which a soldier loses his life trying to rescue a journalist."
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