We are only a few months into 2015 and already it is shaping up to be another bad year for journalism and for freedom of the press. First we had French journalists and cartoonists shot and killed in Paris by Islamist terrorists, then an Iraqi TV reporter and a cameraman died covering the conflict in their country, and then came the beheading of a Japanese journalist who had been taken captive by the Islamic State in Syria.
Last year 60 journalists died in the line of duty. What will be the tally by the time we reach the end of 2015? I dread to think. A genuine risk to life and limb has always been a factor for war correspondents to consider, and, in many cases, investigative reporters, too – especially those covering organised crime or political corruption – but thanks to the particularly violent character of modern-day Islamism we are now also seeing newspaper cartoonists and sub-editors gunned down at their desks. Who would have thought these branches of journalism would become so hazardous?
I use the phrase ‘modern-day Islamism’ very deliberately because, despite the Prime Minister and others dismissing ISIS and Al Qaeda as ‘medieval’ and a throwback to a bygone era, in fact they are nothing of the kind. Islamism is very much a 21st Century phenomenon. These people have a thoroughly modern worldview and they take maximum advantage of hi-tech communications technologies to organise, recruit and ‘network’. Even the beheadings, so reminiscent of centuries past, are essentially global PR events made possible by the internet.
Let there be no doubt – the Islamists are modern revolutionaries. They are today’s Bolsheviks, no more or less barbaric than their Russian predecessors in 1917. Revolutionaries are brutal; it is in their nature. Soviet Communism cast its shadow over the world for three quarters of a century. Will Islamism be with us for the whole of the 21st century? Or will the civilised world unite against it, and succeed in snuffing it out?
Certainly the overwhelming response to the Paris shootings suggests the West is in no mood to put up with this latest revolutionary totalitarian ideology. But the Western tradition of free speech and free press has come under attack continually since the beginning of this century. And, thanks to ‘political correctness’, the West’s political leaders have often appeared spineless in the face of the growing Islamist threat.
In 2004 the Dutch film-maker Theo van Gogh was murdered by Islamists and threats made against his colleagues. Two years later a cartoon in a Danish newspaper, which Islamists considered ‘insulting’, led to mass protests by Muslim extremists with explicit calls to “Exterminate those who slander Islam” – but no action was taken to stop these incitements to murder because the political Establishment throughout Europe was anxious not to be accused of ‘racism’.
Even today, in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo killings, hate preachers still actively recruit for ISIS and Al Qaeda in mosques throughout Europe, and schools that promote Islamism can expect nothing more than to be mildly reprimanded by Ofsted! As Britain and Europe face increasing ‘Islamisation’, our timid political leaders look on nervously, hoping that by ‘bridge-building’ with the leaders of the Muslim communities in our midst the problem will eventually go away. It will not.
Islamism is the single greatest danger to freedom and free speech in the 21st century, and, be under no illusions, the followers of this evil ideology (for it is a political ideology, not a religion) have journalists (of all countries and all cultures) in their gun-sights. Communism, Nazism, Islamism – they are one and the same. This is no time for members of our profession to stand on the sidelines.