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Last Updated: Thursday, 10 July, 2003, 15:34 GMT 16:34 UK
'Worst fear' of war coverage

By Stuart Hughes
BBC News

BBC producer Stuart Hughes lost part of his right leg after stepping on a landmine in northern Iraq.

Stuart, 31, has returned to Cardiff, where has been fitted with an artificial leg. In part 10 of a weekly BBC News Online diary, he charts his recovery.

Last week, I wrote about my concerns for the safety of friends and colleagues working in Baghdad.

Richard Wild
Journalist Richard Wild was shot in the head
This week, my worst fears were realised.

On Saturday evening, I switched on my computer to read that a British journalist had been shot and killed in Baghdad.

I spent a tense evening trying to establish who it was.

It emerged that the dead man was 24-year-old Richard Wild, a freelancer who had previously worked at ITN.

He was shot in the back of the head at point-blank range outside the city's museum.

Richard Wild had gone to cover his first war just two weeks earlier, against the wishes of his parents.

Every person who becomes a journalist does so because they want to be where the story is - they want to witness news in the making
"We tried to stop him, you know, but he felt that he had to go," his mother Daphne said.

I did not know Richard Wild but his words seemed eerily familiar. He had to go.

I remember saying something very similar to my own family before I left for Iraq.

Every person who becomes a journalist does so because they want to be where the story is, whether it's a high-profile court case, a moment of political drama or a war.

They want to witness news in the making.

My situation was very different to Richard Wild's. As a BBC staff journalist, I received expensive training in hostile environment survival, first aid and chemical weapons protection before going to Iraq.

Stuart Hughes
Stuart is now backing an anti-mines drive
The "tools of the trade" I took with me - MiniDisc recorder, microphone, laptop computer - made up a fraction of my luggage.

Much of the rest was safety equipment - body armour, helmet, CBR (Chemical, Biological and Radiological) suit.

My team was accompanied by a security adviser whose job it was to assess the situation on the ground and try to minimise the risks.

Most freelancers have few, if any, of these luxuries. Without the infrastructure of a large media organisation to fall back on, they are reliant largely on their own sense of self-preservation.

Without a monthly salary to look forward to, they are reliant on their ability to generate stories in order to make a living - even if those stories are hidden in places that others would hesitate to go.

For these reasons it is often the freelance community that suffers the highest number of casualties during wars.

Some reports have suggested that Richard Wild was inexperienced and foolhardy.

Hostile environments are dangerous - all the safety training and equipment in the world cannot prevent a stray bullet
He had never worked in a war zone before and should have been wearing a flak jacket while walking through the streets of Baghdad.

Yet the picture of him that has emerged does not point to an especially gung-ho character.

"I had no sense that he was taking risks," said one of Wild's journalist colleagues in Baghdad.

"There was nothing in his behaviour or demeanour that he was irresponsible."

Hostile environments are dangerous, unpredictable places and all the safety training and equipment in the world cannot prevent a stray bullet, an unexpected artillery shell, or - as in my case - a hidden landmine.

Yet despite this journalists still go to these places willingly, even eagerly - because they want to be where the story is.

'War is messy and frightening'
04 Jul 03  |  Wales
Telling the children
26 Jun 03  |  Wales
Learning to walk again
19 Jun 03  |  Wales
Taking the first steps
11 Jun 03  |  Wales
Back on the road
05 Jun 03  |  Wales
Face to face with landmine
29 May 03  |  Wales
Down to earth with a bump
22 May 03  |  Wales

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