Becoming The Story

by Zoe Pollock

Lydia Cacho considers the price of international investigative reporting:

 There are always those who demand drama: a few tears from the Mexican journalist who was tortured and imprisoned, then raped in order to ensure her silence, feeds the morbid desire for titillation, not for indignation. In Uganda, the reporter whose hands were mutilated by the military in order to stop him ever writing again is asked to display his stump as if begging for pity. The media ask the Iraqi journalist to recount a hundred times over how US soldiers murdered her children to quell her voice, and how she herself washed their little bodies alone in her house. They insist the South African poet stops reading his verses of love and hope and instead relives the darkness of his cell, shows the camera the marks of the torture he has spent the last ten years trying to forget, and explains how the love of his family faded to the point where, one autumn afternoon, nobody at all came to visit him in prison.

And they ask the Russian woman journalist – only two months before she dies – "Are you afraid that they'll kill you? Have you ever thought what might become of your children?" To which she stoically replies, as one who recognises her struggle as moral as well as political must reply, that for as long as the lives of others are not secure, then neither is our own. Later, alone in her hotel room, she calms her sobs by burying her head in a feather pillow. In her dreams, she begs her children's forgiveness and visualises a world in which those who tell the truth – about shameful acts of war and humanity's incapacity to negotiate conflict, about the rapaciousness of the powerful, who use war to exterminate or for the acquisition of material goods – do not pay with their lives.