Around the world, the lives of countless people are threatened by civil war. Journalist Mika Yamamoto stood by those in peril, no matter the obstacles. She paid for this with her life.
Her determination was an inspiration to us all, and we should never forget that.
Yamamoto was killed in Aleppo, northern Syria. She was apparently gunned down by pro-government militia.
Yamamoto started out working for a television station, but left the company in her late 20s to devote herself to reporting foreign conflicts and civil war. The turning point in her career came when she covered the Unzen-Fugendake volcanic eruption and pyroclastic flows.
"Natural disasters and military conflicts are the same. You suddenly lose someone dear to you. So one thing naturally led to another and I started covering military conflicts," Yamamoto once said.
Afghanistan, Iraq and the former Yugoslavia; She traveled the world's conflict zones and countries torn by civil war.
In an age when wars were fought between states, most of the casualties were soldiers. After two world wars that claimed tens of millions of lives, the civil wars of modern day are fought by government and anti-government forces inside a country's borders. The majority of casualties are non-combatant, ordinary citizens.
The number of victims of the civil war in Syria has reached 25,000. Some 200,000 people have fled to neighboring countries as refugees.
Wars and natural disasters share a common thread in that it is the ordinary citizens who get hurt. The same holds true when massive earthquakes, tsunami and floods strike.
After last year's Great East Japan Earthquake, Yamamoto went to the affected areas and recorded the extent of the damage. Perhaps in her mind, the victims who lost their homes overlapped with images of refugees who are forced to risk their lives as they cross their country's borders.
Yamamoto took special pains to convey the stories of women, children and people who, through no fault of their own, are caught up in vulnerable situations in disaster areas and conflict zones.
Syria's Assad government refuses to accept the demands of democratization which arose from the Arab Spring that started last year. What kind of government attacks its own territory, inhabited by its own citizens, with fighter jets and tanks? The numbers of the anti-government Free Syrian Army swelled, pushing the country into all-out civil war this past June.
A number of veteran journalists like Yamamoto have been killed reporting the news. This is an unbearable situation.
Yet, despite all of this, the U.N. Security Council is unable to act in concert. Former Secretary General Kofi Annan was unable to mediate a solution through dialogue and resigned from his post as U.N. special envoy. U.N. observers have also left the country.
In the last footage Yamamoto took, moments before she was killed, you can see a citizen fleeing, carrying his baby. This is proof the government is indiscriminately attacking residential areas of the city.
Journalists bear the task of going where people are forced to live in the most extreme and dire circumstances and telling that reality to the world. As journalists, we at this newspaper now ponder anew and take measure of our grave responsibilities.
--The Asahi Shimbun, Aug. 26
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