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Newseum Ditches Headlines for a Day Without News

It’s a stark reminder of the journalists who’ve died doing their jobs

Could you go a day #WithoutNews? (Newseum)
smithsonian.com

Update, June 9, 2017: New information released today by NPR reveals that slain journalists David Gilkey and Zabihullah Tamanna were not killed from a sudden, random assault, but rather were specifically targeted by attackers. Robert Little has the full story here

If you’ve ever walked past the Newseum, you’ve seen the rotating display of newspaper front pages from around the world outside—a reminder of the ever-changing stream of news the museum was designed to celebrate. But if you stroll past the iconic building on Washington D.C.'s historic Pennsylvania Avenue today, you won’t see the papers at all. Rather, blacked-out pages containing a single phrase, #WithoutNews, will challenge you not to celebrate today’s headlines, but to imagine a world that doesn’t have any.

It’s part of the Newseum’s annual “Without News” campaign, reports WTOP’s Michelle Basch. The campaign, the museum’s third, was designed to raise awareness of the threats journalists face around the world. It encourages people to learn about journalists who died doing their jobs, consider press freedoms and get involved by changing their social media profile pictures to spread the word.

It comes on a weighty day for journalists, writes Basch: The anniversary of the deaths of NPR photojournalist David Gilkey and interpreter and journalist, Zabihullah Tamanna, who were killed while on assignment in Afghanistan. Gilkey was 50 years old; Tamanna was just 38.

Journalism has always been a dangerous business, even for reporters who are not actively embedded in war zones. Reporters face jail, physical harassment, retaliation and even murder. Just this year, a Mexican newspaper shut down after the murder of several of its reporters, and as The New York Times’ Azam Ahmed reports, at least 104 reporters have been murdered in Mexico since 2000. Reporters Without Borders, a press freedom advocacy organization, tells The Telegraph’s James Rothwell that a majority of the journalists killed in 2016 were deliberately targeted.

On its day without news, the Newseum is reededicating its Journalists Memorial, recognizing 14 journalists who represent those who died in 2016. The memorial includes over 2,000 names of reporters, photographers and broadcasters killed doing their jobs—reporters like Sagal Salad Osman, who was one of Somalia’s few female radio reporters before she was shot point-blank by gunmen. Osman, who is thought to have been murdered by members of the Al-Shabaab militant group, was killed the same day as Gilkey and Tamanna.

Without the everyday contributions of journalists all over the world, we wouldn’t know what was going on in our communities. A world without reporters like Osman, Gilkey and Tamanna is infinitely poorer—and their deaths are a reminder of the dangers faced by the people behind the headlines.

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