Christiane Amanpour knows plenty about danger. The veteran CNN host and correspondent rose to fame with her intrepid reporting of the 1990s wars in the Balkans, including the siege of Sarajevo, where snipers in the hills played bloody sport with civilian lives.
The experience taught Amanpour the importance of solidarity with her fellow journalists, some of whom were killed not just in the crossfire but as deliberate targets. Reporters from rival news outlets banded together to minimize risk, share footage and information, and keep each other safe.
Concern for her colleagues’ welfare has carried over into Amanpour’s support for the Committee to Protect Journalists, which promotes press freedom worldwide. It is work she believes is more important than ever.
“We need a protective force around us, because journalism gets more and more dangerous every single year,” Amanpour says. “More journalists are kidnapped, taken hostage, wounded and killed. And this is not by accident. This is a deliberate assault on journalists around the world.”
At least 34 journalists were murdered last year in reprisal for their quest for truth, almost double the previous year’s number, according to the CPJ. Another 19 died in combat, crossfire or while covering volatile situations. More than 250 were jailed.
Amanpour has served on the CPJ board since 2005, lending her expertise and her star power to train a spotlight on the plight of imperiled journalists who don’t enjoy the name recognition she does. “You couldn’t ask for someone who’s more dedicated,” says Courtney Radsch, CPJ’s advocacy director. “Both through her journalism and her reporting and commentary, she’s always raising the profile of these journalists … who are under threat. She’s always there for the organization.”
To Amanpour, it’s no surprise that violence against journalists has grown. This is a world where the man with the biggest bully pulpit of them all, President Trump, actually uses it to bully, denouncing the news media as the “enemy of the people.” Last year, a gunman killed five people in the newsroom of Maryland’s Capital Gazette, propelling the U.S. into a tie with Mexico as the fourth-deadliest country for journalists.
“When you have the president of the United States attacking free and fair and independent journalists in the United States, which has a constitutional amendment that protects freedom of expression, … that has a knock-on effect in all the other countries where they’re run by authoritarians or dictators, and where they have no duty to their journalists or to any other journalists,” Amanpour says. “They would much rather lock us up or have us silenced, and it gives them a pass. So in that regard, danger has increased exponentially as well in the last couple of years.”
Amanpour is also alarmed by the rise of the phrase “fake news” as a way to reject something a reader or listener doesn’t like, without regard to the actual truth of the matter. “It’s very dangerous, this assault on the truth, the assault on facts, the assault on empirical evidence,” she says. “As far as I’m concerned, the difference between democracy and freedom and dictatorship and imprisonment is truth and lies. We absolutely have to be clear where the boundary is.”