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Press club honors slain journalists

YOUNGSTOWN — While reporting on an anti-poaching patrol along a road leading to a nature preserve in the small African country of Burkina Faso, Spanish journalists David Beriain and Roberto Fraile were killed when armed terrorists reportedly fired on their convoy.

When they were killed April 26, Beriain and Fraile, a war reporter and photographer, respectively, joined the list of 58 journalists who have been slain because of their professional activities since 2020.

Eight have died so far this year, according to Reporters without Borders, an international organization founded in 1985 to defend and promote freedom of information while protecting journalists worldwide. The organization also records actions by governments to impede a free press.

Youngstown Press Club members Aileen Blaine, George Nelson, Aundrea Cika-Heschmeyer, Derek Steyer and Ralph Zerbonia read aloud all 58 names during a ceremony Monday in Youngstown State University’s Kilcawley Center.

The gathering also was on World Press Freedom Day, an international observance each May 3 that the U.N. General Assembly proclaimed in December 1993.

This year’s theme is “Information as a Public Good,” in part to recognize the effects a changing media has on democracy, human rights and public health.

“The work of reporters, photographers, videographers and other professionals in this industry sometimes places them in life-threatening situations,” JoAnn Kolarik, the Youngstown Press Club’s president, said. “Journalists seeking the truth have been injured, imprisoned, abused or killed. Today, we honor their sacrifice and celebrate their work.”

Kolarik also cited Article 19 of a 1948 U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which reads: “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression. This right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media, and regardless of frontiers.”

Nevertheless, efforts continue in the U.S. and abroad to stymie the functions of a free press to disseminate accurate and truthful information, she said, adding that at least 174 are imprisoned.

“Dozens of countries worldwide censor, fine, suspend and close down publications at will,” Kolarik continued.

Beyond reporting on local, national and international events, journalists serve their communities and hold themselves to high standards and professional ethics, Adam Earnheardt, the Youngstown Press Club’s executive director, explained.

Earnheardt also encouraged others not only to know the names of the journalists who were killed in the line of duty, but to read their stories and the contributions they made.

Kolarik also reminded attendees of the ripple effect created by the deaths of journalists in the field.

“I encourage all those listening to remember that those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice leave behind family, friends and colleagues. They died trying to make the world better, and we owe them a debt of gratitude,” she said.

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