Under Fire: Journalists in Combat is a documentary written and directed by Canadian director/writer and novelist Martyn Burke. Burke’s doc, which was shortlisted for an Oscar nomination last year, explores the harsh reality of journalists covering war and conflict in other countries.
In an article that appeared in The Globe and Mail, John Doyle writes that the film is careful to point out that while covering the First World War, only two journalists were killed, and 63 were killed during World War II, but in the last 15 years, 1,397 people in the media have been killed while covering war and conflict. (The next day, reporter Marie Colvin and photojournalist Remi Ochlik lost their lives in Homs, Syria.)
Doyle then explains that the film addresses two issues: first, with the death of journalists becoming more “common,” fewer people care, and second, what these journalists are doing to deal with what they’ve witnessed while working in these war areas.
Finbarr O’Reilly, a Ryerson journalism grad who currently works for Reuters, is featured in the film several times. While photographing dead bodies after a NATO air strike in Libya, he says, “I don’t think I’m one of those junkies who is there for the thrill of it.” O’Reilly consults psychiatrist Dr. Anthony Feinstein, of Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto, who deals specifically with journalists suffering trauma.
When it comes to trauma and journalists, there is the issue of depression affecting those who narrowly escape death and then go home and have to lead a normal life. “There’s a disconnection leading to depression. This wasn’t acknowledged before. It was a very macho profession,” says O’Reilly.
CBC’s Susan Ormiston talks about the apprehension she suffers when having to leave home to report in a dangerous place, and London’s Sunday Times’s Christian Lamb says, about the fear of dying in Afghanistan, “It just seemed really, really stupid to die in that field.”
Doyle adds that the journalists reporting from war zone areas are often mocked and ridiculed online. But the images conveyed in Under Fire are stronger than words, and that’s something people shouldn’t forget.
Lead image via Jerome Starkey