War on Words

Who Should Protect Journalists?

by Joanne M. Lisosky and Jennifer R. Henrichsen
Foreword by Chris Cramer


According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), more than 860 journalists have been killed while doing their jobs since 1992. Nearly nine out of ten journalists killed on the job were murdered or otherwise killed within their own nation. In the first five months of 2011, the Committee reports that journalists have died while reporting in Libya, Bahrain, Iraq, Mexico, Yemen, Egypt, Vietnam, Philippines, Tunisia, and Pakistan.

Print Flyer
Cover image for War on Words

July 2011


Pages 267
Volumes 1
Size 6 1/8x9 1/4
Topics Current Events and Issues/New Media and Journalism

This unprecedented book provides a comprehensive examination of the issue of protecting journalists in conflict situations from both a practical and humanitarian law perspective.

Violent criminals and corrupt governmental officials harass, co-opt, and kill local and foreign journalists in countries from Mexico to Afghanistan, to Russia and the Philippines. Staggeringly, there has been little or no prosecution in 89 percent of journalist murders worldwide. Such widespread impunity is arguably one of the greatest threats to press freedom. A number of international organizations and advocates have developed efforts to mitigate this problem, but belligerents continue to act with few restraints and little, if any, accountability.

War on Words: Who Should Protect Journalists? is an examination of the deteriorating and dangerous environment facing journalists and what stakeholders are doing to address this serious problem threatening democracy worldwide. The authors explore the peril facing journalists, delve into the legal and practical history of press protection, evaluate current safety strategies for journalists, and gather opinions from an array of local and international correspondents and practitioners on how to improve this untenable situation.


  • Provides descriptions of contemporary strategies used to protect journalists in conflict
  • Contains contributions from more than 60 stakeholders interested in the protection of journalists
  • Presents a historical background of international policies, declarations, and resolutions intended to protect journalists
  • Contains 18 vignettes of journalists killed, harassed, or threatened when reporting from Mexico to Gaza to Pakistan and China


  • Provides information that is extremely timely in light of the international community's focus on the current epidemic of journalists being targeted in conflicts
  • Presents the history of press protection and an overview of current press protection strategies
  • Contains interviews that document various stakeholders' opinions on how journalists should be protected
  • Discusses this issue of critical importance with current war reporters
Author Info

Joanne M. Lisosky, PhD, is professor of communication and journalism at Pacific Lutheran University, Tacoma, WA. She worked as a freelance journalist at the United Nations in Geneva and received two Fulbright Awards to lecture on journalism in Uganda (2003) and Azerbaijan (2011). Lisosky received the Ken Nordin Award in 2010 for the top research paper for college media advisers. Her published works include articles on international media policies, media literacy, and most recently on the protection of journalists in conflict in the journal Media, War and Conflict.

Jennifer R. Henrichsen is project assistant for the Democracy Coalition Project and research assistant for the Open Society Foundations in Washington, DC, where she conducts research and assists with advocacy relating to the advancement of democracy and human rights internationally. Henrichsen has a master of advanced studies in international and European security from the University of Geneva, Switzerland, and the Geneva Center for Security Policy. She is a former Fulbright Scholar to Switzerland and has had her work published in the journal Media, War and Conflict.



"This is a valuable sourcebook on the safety of journalists in dangerous locations around the globe. . . . The authors correctly observe that cooperation among journalism advocacy groups is critical to such efforts. Summing Up: Recommended."Choice


"With journalists under fire and under attack around the globe, with blurred definitions of who really is a journalist in our new media world of iPhones, flipcams, and tweets, Joanne Lisosky and Jennifer Henrichsen have written a well-timed and sorely needed book about what protections are in place and what new measures should be considered to better protect those who risk all to provide ground truth." —John Owen, Professor of International Journalism, City University

"War on Words is a compelling history of war reporting, from a help-wanted ad by a British newspaper looking for a French-speaking gentleman to cover the French Revolution in 1792 to the conflicts of today, in which journalists are often seen as targets. The book also raises important questions about the future of war coverage, and what will happen in this age of fast-moving technology, increasingly tight budgets and asymmetric warfare. It documents the complex relationship between the military and journalists over the years, problems with censorship and the differences for women and men who cover war. But at its heart, War on Words is really a love letter to journalists who risk their lives to cover conflict, to the people who ask themselves on a daily basis a question most people never consider: 'Would you be willing to die for your job?'—Kim Barker, Author, The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan; and Former South Asia Bureau Chief for the Chicago Tribune

"War on Words provides a sobering reality check on the threat of the sword to the pen and asks who should be responsible for the safety of journalists in the battlefield. The authors also examine, critique and recommend a host of alternatives to safeguard journalists in an age in which journalists have become clear targets. War on Words is a must read for any journalist or prospective journalist planning to cover conflict." —Michelle Betz, Betz International Media Consulting and Author of Handbook for Rwandan Broadcast Journalists, 2003

"In the new battlegrounds of global corruption, repression and cultural violence, democracy–and journalism–are targeted. How in the world do we protect journalists and train them to tell larger truths and cover violent conflict without contributing to it? A must-read for every would-be reporter and democracy-seeking citizen."—Ross Howard, Journalist, Trainer, and President of Media&Democracy Group.

"In the last fifteen years, there has been a dramatic shift in the status of journalists and newsgatherers across all platforms–especially in areas of conflict and repression. They are increasingly targeted, threatened, and attacked or murdered with impunity not only by governments, but also by paramilitary or rebel forces and criminal cartels. War on Words is a valuable and thoroughly researched work, which highlights the need to protect those who, while telling us what we need to know, can find themselves in the line of fire. It faces us with the major issues of protection, impunity – and responsibility." —Tina Carr, Director, The Rory Peck Trust

"Working as a journalist in a transition country like Azerbaijan is beyond challenging and nearly impossible to describe. So, it was with absolute skepticism that I began to read, War on Words: Who Should Protect Journalists?. Once I began reading it, however, I was immediately hooked and devoured the entire book in one weekend. The writers neither exaggerate nor underestimate things. War on Words presents the real words of everyday journalists coping through conflict, harassment and intimidation."—Gulnara Akhundova, Head of Azerbaijan Media Center

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