ARLINGTON, Va. – Scripps Howard columnist Ernie Pyle was covering the tail end of World War II when he was killed by a Japanese sniper.
Arizona Republic reporter Donald Bolles was investigating organized crime when a car bomb took his life in 1976.
Reuters photojournalist Dan Eldon was taking pictures of a bombing raid in Somalia in 1995 when he was stoned to death by relatives of the bombing victims.
Pyle, Bolles and Eldon are remembered, along with 931 other journalists, at a new memorial dedicated to journalists who died while on assignment. The Freedom Forum Journalists Memorial opened in May.
“People died trying to bring the news to people so they can conduct their daily lives – a fundamental right in a free society,” said Eric Newton, managing editor of the Newseum, Freedom Forum’s news museum, which will open next door to the memorial next year.
“It’s hard to imagine that kind of job: wondering if today is the day you are going to be killed doing your job,” Newton said.
The $500,000 memorial stands at the highest point of Freedom Park, a new urban park on Wilson Boulevard dedicated to the struggle for freedom.
The names of the journalists fill 50 of the 149 glass panels that form a spiral and overlook the monuments of Washington.
Serious planning for the memorial began five years ago, about the time the number of journalists killed on assignment had gone from almost 50 a year to more than 100, according to Avner Gidron, director of research at the Committee to Protect Journalists.
In the last 10 years, Algeria, Colombia and Tajikistan have had the highest number of journalists’ deaths, Gidron said.
He said the increase in deaths is tied to the proliferation of independent publications worldwide.
The majority of the journalists were doing investigative reporting and were outspoken about their countries’ governments, he said.
“The vast majority of these deaths have been intentional,” Gidron said.
Newton said, “There are still many dictators and others who think they can control what people think and say.”
He added that the frequency with which the press can travel has led to more accidents and deaths. New York Times reporter Nathaniel Nash was accompanying former Commerce Secretary Ronald Brown in April when their plane crashed in Croatia, killing all 35 on board.
“These journalists felt they had to be in dangerous situations because their job was important enough to make that sacrifice,” Newton said.
Ralph Appelbaum, president of a New York-based architecture firm, designed the memorial. Ralph Appelbaum Associates also designed the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington.
To be included on the glass panels, a journalist must have been a regular contributor of news, commentary or photography; an editor or other news executive; a member of a broadcast crew; or a free-lance journalist or documentary film maker. Their deaths also must have been related to their assignments.
Two-hundred twenty-five of the names on the memorial are those of Americans. The earliest listing is for James Lingan, a reporter for The Federalist who died July 28, 1812, while covering a riot in Baltimore.
Names of journalists killed in the last 10 years were provided by the Committee to Protect Journalists, a New York- based organization dedicated to documenting and responding to violations of press freedoms.
Since the memorial’s dedication, the Freedom Forum, a nonprofit, nonpartisan educational institution, has received 200 additional names. The memorial will be rededicated each year. Ten more panels are expected to be filled by next year. -30-