“Murder Without Borders by Terry Gould is a book of love and passion. The portraits of slain journalists who reported from the world’s most dangerous places are unquestionably tragic, but this book is uplifting and even inspiring. Through his meticulous reporting and his compassionate storytelling, Gould performs a small miracle, a literary resurrection, allowing journalists so cruelly killed to tell their own stories completely and honestly. In an age when journalism is threatened by economic collapse and deep public cynicism, Gould’s book reminds us that journalism can be beautiful and meaningful and that its power to combat injustice so great that some journalists around the world are willing to give their lives to tell the truth.”

--Joel Simon, Executive Director of the Committee to Protect Journalists


June 2009

Quill & Quire Magazine

Murder Without Borders: Dying for the Story in the World’s Most Dangerous Places by Terry Gould

Reviewed by Matt Sturrock

When one hears of a journalist dying in pursuit of a story, one immediately imagines some strafed and cratered combat zone. But as investigative writer Terry Gould is quick to point out in his new book, war is not the chief cause of death in the profession: murder is. Nearly three-quarters of journalists killed since 1992 have been victims of targeted assassinations – and virtually all of the individuals who orchestrated the killings have escaped punishment.

In Murder Without Borders, Gould travels to five brutal kleptocracies – Columbia, the Philippines, Bangladesh, Russia, and Iraq – where the most expedient form of press censorship is a bullet or a bomb. In what ultimately proves to be a four-year saga, he researches the lives of seven slain journalists and tries to answer the question of why his subjects insisted on reporting stories they knew would probably get them killed.

The answers vary widely. Guillermo Bravo Vega martyred himself to atone for his own criminal past. Marlene Garcia-Esperat was driven by her religious conviction. Anna Politkovskaya wrote to assuage her shame over her country’s moral collapse. All of them knew that demanding accountability from the regimes they lived under would lay the foundation of social justice.

Gould supplies us with copious, scrupulously researched details gleaned from the victims’ friends, colleagues, family members, and even tormentors, and proves himself as adept at recounting a charming childhood anecdote as unflinchingly analyzing a murder scene. He writes skillfully and sensitively, with laudable modesty and candor, and is careful not to compose cloying hagiographies of the glorious dead. His subjects are fully human, sometimes exhibiting prickly demeanors, or inurement to their loved ones’ suffering, or momentary failures of nerve.

Murder Without Borders begins with a quote from Vaclav Havel, himself no stranger to tyranny and crushing reprisal: “I am not interested in why man commits evil; I want to know why he does good.” Gould’s admirable book confronts us with examples of rare, beleaguered, fragile goodness – goodness so dangerous to those in power that it had to be stamped out.


The Toronto Star

Risking Their Lives To Get To The Truth: Press Freedom Day Honors Journalists Who Spoke Out Knowing They Would Die Because Of It

May 03, 2009

By Olivia Ward
Foreign Affairs Reporter

Guillermo Bravo Vega knew death was stalking him through the back roads of Colombia. He had ignored threats, shrugged off assassination attempts and defied powerful enemies for too long to doubt it. In the end he gave up fighting his fate, and opened the door to his killers.

Khalid Waleed Hassan knew that moderate Iraqis who spoke out were at risk from Sunni and Shiite extremists. But he refused to abandon his perilous job or flee his flat in a disputed part of Baghdad. He died in a hail of bullets.

Marlene Garcia-Esperat, dubbed the Erin Brockovich of the Philippines, carried her crusade against corruption to the bitter end, pointing a public finger at the highest levels of government. She was shot in front of her children.

Though these three came from widely different lives and backgrounds, they were all journalists, and all murdered for practicing their profession.

They shared one overwhelming goal: to make their reporting count in the lives of ordinary people.

Today, on World Press Freedom Day, they're an example – and a warning – to hundreds of thousands of other media workers who are threatened, detained, tortured and killed throughout the world.

"These are not foreign correspondents who were caught in the crossfire," says author Terry Gould, Vancouver-based author of Murder Without Borders: Dying for the Story in the World's Most Dangerous Places.

"They're people who took a stand in their own countries and hometowns. They were warned they were going to die, but they were not afraid to speak the truth."

Gould's book chronicles the life stories of Vega, Hassan, Garcia-Esperat and other high-profile journalists who refused to be silent and paid the ultimate price.

"They knew they had only three options: agree with the aggressors, stay silent, or continue to expose the crimes," the author says. "They knew they would be the first to fall, but they believed something good would come of it."

Others have followed their example. And in the past year, 41 have died, according to the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

But journalists have also been silenced in other ways, resulting in a worldwide decline in media freedom for the seventh straight year, according to a global survey published last week by Washington-based Freedom House.

"Restrictions can happen in any type of environment, including democracies," says Karen Karlekar, managing editor of the annual Freedom of the Press report.

Freedom House called on U.S. President Barack Obama's administration to "focus on this disturbing trend" and create a strategy to defend and advance freedom of expression.

It's a daunting task. A CPJ analysis of 734 slayings of media workers since 1992 shows that the overwhelming majority of the dead were deliberately targeted, more than half the suspected perpetrators were political groups or government officials, and a depressing 89 per cent of the killers got away with it.

It's that impunity that allows governments to attack, threaten, jail and censor people who are working to inform the public of abuses. And the practices are widespread, running through every region of the world.

In January, Lasantha Wickramatunga – co-founder and editor of Sri Lanka's Sunday Leader newspaper – was ambushed and killed by gunmen as he drove to work in Colombo. He had ignored threats, condemning both the army's occupation of Tamil areas of the north and east and the Tamil Tigers' brutal campaign for independence.

Wickramatunga – who predicted his death – was awarded UNESCO's annual World Press Freedom Prize.

"In the world's most dangerous places these kinds of predictions are not uncommon," says Gould, a Brooklyn-born investigative journalist who was himself nominated for a bravery prize by Canadian Journalists for Free Expression. "Journalists quickly learn how their societies work. The unusual thing is they are prepared to go on doing their jobs."


The Concordian

When The Sword Breaks The Pen: The Stories of Journalists Who Died to Protect The Truth

By Sijia Chen

In journalism, the virtuous and persevering reporter is the golden standard by which all others in the profession are measured. But would that ideal hold up under a regime in which truth telling invites death threats, censorship, or murder?

In a new book called Murder Without Borders: Dying for the Story in the World's Most Dangerous Places, award-winning investigative reporter Terry Gould analyses the stories of nine journalists who paid the ultimate price for their craft. Gould spent four years researching his subjects, in the process travelling to the five countries where journalists are most likely to be murdered on the job: the Philippines, Russia, Colombia, Bangladesh, and Iraq. The author asks not why these journalists were murdered, but the factor that led them to struggle in the face of certain death.

In an investigative tour de force, Gould brings a level of detail and realism to his descriptions of people and places that makes the book's 400 pages melt away. The reporters he portrays resonate with human weakness; one Colombian journalist openly kept two separate households and entertained a string of mistresses on the side.

The story that is probably most familiar to Western readers is that of Anna Politkovskaya, the Russian journalist who was gunned down in 2006 in her apartment building. As she came out the elevator, a man with a baseball cap shot her in the heart, lungs, shoulder, and head. He left the murder weapon at her feet, a tell-tale sign of a contract hit.

Before her death, Politkovskaya infuriated Russian politicians and soldiers by covering the largely ignored Second Chechen War. She was a fierce critic of the Putin administration and flaunted the conventions of krysha (Russian for "roof"), "the nation's metaphor for protection, influence, and impunity." More krysha meant less fear of being punished for one's crimes.

What most readers don't know is that Politkovskaya was born in New York City to educated, upper-middle class diplomats. After a privileged childhood, she graduated from the University of Moscow's journalism program at 18 and married two years later. Earlier in her career, Politkovskaya was known for her dramatic accounts of the lives of Moscow's liberal elite.

It was only when she stumbled upon a hall filled with Chechen refugees at Civil Assistance that she had an epiphany. After that, Politkovskaya worked tirelessly for the refugees' cause. Although she was always kind to the downtrodden, her co-workers at the Novaya Gazeta found her exhausting to work with. Despite being plagued by depression and censorship fears, Politkovskaya survived a poisoning attempt and weathered several death threats to expose what she viewed as a deep-seated injustice - a cause she defended with her life.

The other portraits in the book are equally engrossing. The untimely deaths of Politkovskaya et al. reaffirm the importance of keeping the truth safe from those who would stamp it out. Murder Without Borders should be required reading for anyone who prizes democracy, journalist or not.


Canwest News Service

Is The Pen Mightier Than The Sword?

By Sreerekha Pillai Verma

May 8, 2009

Guillermo Bravo Vega died in Colombia; Marlene Garcia-Esperat died in the Philippines, Manik Chandra Saha in Bangladesh; and Anna Politkovskaya, Valery Ivanov and Alexei Sidorov met their end in Russia. We might know a few names from this list, but there are many more we've never heard of.

They are all courageous journalists who stood their ground and fought against a system that threatened to kill them and harm their country. Each one of them predicted their own death, but that didn't stop them from reporting against corruption and greed. The question is, what made them go on with their work when they knew they would be killed for it?

Terry Gould spent four years investigating these murdered journalists to produce Murder Without Borders: Dying for the Story in the World's Most Dangerous Places.

"Were they idealists?,'' he writes. ``Egotists? Devout believers in God? Were they motivated by a macho defiance of thugs? A revolutionary's zeal to help the masses? Perhaps they had become so obsessed with a great story that they were blind to its consequences? Or were their lives so personally buffeted by bandits and death squads that they felt that sacrificing themselves was the price that had to be paid to get the story out?"

Those are the questions that were front-and-centre as Gould pursued his investigation into the lives of seven local reporters in the five of the most dangerous countries in the world.

Gould succeeds in profiling each journalist with the help of their family, friends and their own ominous stories. He details every aspect of their lives - from their personal roots to the factors that prompted them to keep telling the truth, even though they knew that they could be murdered any day or night.

This book can be considered as a biography of the seven slain journalists and fearless truth-tellers. Gould discovers that these writers didn't seek martyrdom, nor awards, but gained satisfaction from speaking the truth. They can be called patriots - soldiers defending their town, their country and their people not with guns or swords, but with the words they penned.

Gould also describes the stories they wrote and broadcast, how their enemies tried to lure them with bribes and how they each paid the ultimate price for the truth they uncovered.

Journalists should read this book to see what their roles really should be in society. We live in a relatively safe continent where journalists don't expect to get killed for their stories, but that doesn't mean they shouldn't be devoted to the truth and "journalism as an act of courage'' as Gould describes it.

Of course, the book offers lessons to non-journalists as well, as it gives readers a close-up view of sacrifice, and how these writers made their personal and professional lives work. They were people who believed that they could bring about change and they did. Yes, their countries still have organized crime, murders, corruption and much more, but the difference is that we know about it.

There are more local journalists being killed every day in these countries and many other countries. According to organizations like Committee to Protect Journalists and Reporters sans frontieres, more than 725 journalists have been murdered since 1992, and 95 per cent of the people who ordered their murders still remain unpunished.


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