Despite our best efforts, there is no foolproof way of ensuring one’s safety on the job. Simple measures such as the use of handrails in stairways, the wearing of hard hats on construction sites or the donning of bulletproof vests when law enforcement officers hit the streets, all serve as proven barriers between our bodies and possible harm.
For members of the journalistic community, we rely on our wits, our experience in previous scenarios, and our intuition to be able to manoeuver around danger while still achieving the objective of gaining the content that is required. In the name of fulfilling our duty to keep the public reliably informed, we sometimes take chances that ordinary citizens might not.
Members of our fraternity often put themselves in harm’s way as a natural course of things. Some of our veteran journalists will tell you of their work during the murderous overthrow of Maurice Bishop in Grenada and later the invasion by United States troops. The experienced newshounds will tell you of their dangerous encounters covering the likes of the late murder convict Winston Hall and his accomplices who were linked to a spate of serious crimes including rape, robberies and home invasions. Those on the beat today will relate the dangers of responding to reports of conflict or violence in some neighbourhoods where they are often warned never to go alone.
Today, for the first time in modern history, a member of our media was murdered on the job, as he sought to get the story, acquire the facts and present them to the public. Interestingly, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) recently reported that on average, every five days a journalist is killed for bringing information to the public. The UN body explained that attacks on media professionals are often carried out in “non-conflict situations” making them among the most vulnerable.
Alistair Hollington, the Managing Director of Lazarus Training, based in the United Kingdom said recently: “The first thing that journalists need to do to assure their safety in carrying out their reporting duties is to conduct the risk assessment.”
And in light of this most horrendous occurrence today that ended the life of young photo-journalist Christoff Griffith, the fraternity must surely place the safety of its practitioners on the front burner.
The former Deighton Griffith Secondary School student found his calling in media with his love for photography. He proudly got his first start in the newsroom of Barbados TODAY. The charming, bold, respectful, fun-loving professional made friends easily. He loved what he did and we pay tribute to him for his contribution, cut short by this tragedy.
His first boss in the profession, Roy Morris said of Christoff today that the once “tiny and timid trainee news photographer at Barbados TODAY, who was afraid to raise his camera to his face when a policeman in tactical wear shouted at him at a murder scene, to a still tiny but confident photographer, who, if confronted by that same policeman today would not back down — but he would not utter a word of insult or disrespect.”
During this period of heartache and reflection, we pray for solace and comfort to his grieving parents Sergeant Christopher Griffith of the Royal Barbados Police Force and Sonia Griffith, as well as his two younger brothers. As Morris put it so eloquently, “If it is any consolation, if it is possible for anyone to boast of raising a near-perfect son, you can.” We in the media say thank you to Sonia and Chris for loaning Christoff to us. May he rest in peace and rise in glory.”