PERSPECTIVE: The Price of Words


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McKenna Corson

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.

We all know the childish phrase our parents would tell us to stand up to bullies back in elementary school.

But what our parents didn’t teach us is that words are so much stronger and dangerous than sticks and stones.

Words can inspire or anger. Words can bring about change or war.

Words can save and words can kill.

And imagine being killed for the way you used your words.

Between 2006 and 2017, over 1,000 journalists were killed for doing their job: reporting news to the public, according to the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation.

On average, one journalist is killed every four days.

Viktoria Marinova, a 30-year-old Bulgarian television presenter, was found raped and murdered in a park after covering suspected businesses’ and politicians’ misuse of European Union funds Oct. 6. Her death is highly speculated to be a cover-up, according to the Independent.

Bayo Ohu, a 45-year-old assistant news editor for The Guardian, was shot and killed by unidentified assailants in his home in Nigeria on Sept. 20, 2009. Ohu, known for his political reporting, had started an investigation into alleged fraud in the Nigerian Customs Department. His laptop and cellphone were taken from his home during the attack, adding question as to whether his death was due to his journalistic work, according to Sahara Reporters.  

Salih Saif Aldin, a 32-year-old print reporter for the Washington Post, was shot and killed by a single gunshot to the head while taking photos of fire-damaged houses in Baghdad on Oct. 14, 2007. Saif Aldin wrote under the pseudonym Salih Dehema for security purposes and had been tortured in the past for his coverage. It was reported Saif Aldin’s killer used Saif Aldin’s cell phone to call The Washington Post to inform staff of his death, according to the Washington Post.

Jamal Khashoggi, the Washington Post reporter allegedly killed by a Saudi hit squad in Turkey, was vocal of his disapproval of the Saudi government. Investigation into his death and whereabouts of his remains continue today.

So far, 45 journalists have been killed in 2018, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

People killed for informing the public of news. People killed for doing what they loved.

Imagine taking to Facebook and posting about your political woes, and a few hours later, you get a knock at your door. Masked assailants you’ve never seen before stand armed, ready to kill you because of your words.

People who dedicated their lives to share with others injustices in the world and people who wanted to help others by shedding light on the cruelties of man. Dead.

It’s one thing to be killed in crossfire or due to a dangerous assignment as a journalist. But to be targeted for being critical is another thing.

So while the mantra of sticks and stones apply to playground bullying, words carry significant meaning.

And words can come at a hefty price.

McKenna Corson is the general assignment editor. Contact her at [email protected].