August 26, 2015 - Updated on June 6, 2016

Journalists killed on live TV in the US: an unprecedented tragedy

Alison Parker and Adam Ward, a reporter and cameraman for local CBS-affiliate WDBJ7 in Virginia, were killed on live TV on August 26, 2015.

“The murder of two journalists, Alison Parker and Adam Ward, on live television in Virginia is an unprecedented tragedy, even in a country where thousands of people are killed each year by firearms, said Christophe Deloire, Secretary General of Reporters Without Borders. “According to initial reports, it seems that these reporters were personally targeted in an act of revenge and not because of their jobs. The ensuing investigation will reveal if their work as journalists was indeed a factor in this criminal act.”

Six American journalists were killed while doing their job since 2010, all while in war-torn countries. This was the case notably for journalist Luke Sommers, murdered during a rescue mission in Yemen in December 2014, and freelance journalist James Foley, who was beheaded by Islamic State militants in August 2014. Others killed include Steven Sotloff and Marie Colvin, also in Syria, Chris Hondros in Libya, and Rupert Hamer in Afghanistan. These circumstances are without a doubt completely different than those of today’s attack.

“Even if this is not a case of journalists being targeted while reporting in war-torn countries or murdered because of their investigation on corruption or drug-trafficking, to kill two journalists on live television in cold blood demonstrates a certain willingness to dramatize the crime committed against them,” observes Delphine Halgand, US Director of Reporters Without Borders.

It is extremely rare that journalists are killed while doing their job on American soil. A photo journalist, Bill Biggart, was killed by falling debris while covering rescue operations from the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. On October 5 that same year Robert Stevens, journalist for the Boca Raton Sun in Florida, succumbed to a deadly inhalation of anthrax after receiving an envelope like many other members of the media.

The last journalist to have been killed on American soil for doing his job was Chauncey Bailey in 2007, a reporter for the Oakland Post who covered corruption. He was murdered by men hired by the leader of one of the groups he was investigating.

Elsewhere in the world, the most recent cases of journalists killed while on air are as recent as August 7 in northern Brazil. Glaydson Carvalho, a presenter for Radio Liberdade, spoke out against corruption among local politicians and was killed in cold blood by two armed men during his radio program. In addition, last October in Mexico, reporter Atilano Roman Tirado from the radio station Fiesta Mexicana was killed by two men while he was in the middle of his live weekly program. He often criticized local authorities in the state of Sinaloa where he worked.