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Good Reads: An Afghan periled, a Pakistani reporter killed, and journalism after 9/11

Among the legacies of 9/11 is a more dangerous world for journalists and civilians working in conflict zones such as Afghanistan and Pakistan. Here are a few stories that tell of the growing risks.

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In this week’s New Yorker, Dexter Filkins – a former New York Times correspondent in Afghanistan – lays out what is known about Shahzad’s last days, and how his relationship with militants and with the ISI may have led to his death.

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"Because Shahzad had relationships with a number of I.S.I. agents, he was one of a small class of reporters more likely to become targets of the intelligence agencies. Talking to the I.S.I. allowed him to get privileged information, and to verify information that he had picked up on his own. But maintaining a relationship with the I.S.I. may have created expectations of loyalty. Almeida, the Dawn columnist, told me that he refuses to talk to the I.S.I.: “Once you start talking to these people, that creates a relationship, and then they think you owe them. Then, if you do something they don’t like, they feel betrayed."

Shahzad’s case is a more extreme example of the growing risks that journalists now face in the ongoing war on terror. In addition to the normal risks of the battlefield, journalists also face political risks from their own governments, including charges of terrorism and treason. Joel Simon, executive director of the New York based Committee to Protect Journalists, writes in an opinion piece for CNN.com that it was the us-versus-them rhetoric of the war on terror’s early days that set the tone now employed across the developing world, as well as in the West.

"Anti-state charges and 'terrorist' labels have become commonplace and are used to unduly intimidate, detain and imprison journalists. Media blackouts and limited access to war and conflict zones have become routine, along with the uninvestigated killings of journalists.

"To put it starkly, 81 journalists were in jail around the world at the end of 2000. By the end of 2001, that number shot up to 118. Today there are 145, most held on state security charges. Abusive use of national security was the single greatest charge invoked to justify journalist imprisonments in 2010, the Committee to Protect Journalists found."

Yet if the world seems more dangerous these days, it may all be in your head. Statistically, the world is safer. There are fewer wars, not more, than a century ago, writes Joshua Goldstein in this week’s Foreign Policy magazine. Cellphone cameras, 24-hour news channels, and social media may inundate us with images of conflict, and their immediacy may shock us, but conflicts themselves are on the decline.

"Armed conflict has declined in large part because armed conflict has fundamentally changed. Wars between big national armies all but disappeared along with the Cold War, taking with them the most horrific kinds of mass destruction. Today's asymmetrical guerrilla wars may be intractable and nasty, but they will never produce anything like the siege of Leningrad. The last conflict between two great powers, the Korean War, effectively ended nearly 60 years ago. The last sustained territorial war between two regular armies, Ethiopia and Eritrea, ended a decade ago. Even civil wars, though a persistent evil, are less common than in the past; there were about a quarter fewer in 2007 than in 1990."

So take a deep breath. And get back to work fixing the world.

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