News last week that Pakistani journalists have been given permission to carry guns. This is very dangerous territory indeed. In all my years in some fairly hazardous places, I never once carried a weapon. I was aware, however, that some correspondents covering the bush war in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) did venture out carrying guns, just in case they were ambushed. However, if one side or another in a civil war captures a journalist carrying a weapon, he’s as good as done for.
Back in 1979, Time magazine published this article on exactly this topic and the arguments still hold good today.
Note the wise words from the legendary LA Times correspondent Jack Foisie: “If you’re captured, having a gun is a death warrant.”
Jack was a man who knew about danger. His plane was hit by a Vietcong Sam missile in Vietnam. I knew him while a correspondent in the Middle East. There was the famous story of Jack, taking breakfast alongside the swimming pool at the long-standing press hotel in Beirut, the Commodore, only to look down to discover that an incoming bullet from somewhere had taken out the yolk of his fried egg. He didn’t have a weapon to hand to return fire!