Death of Sky's Mick Deane provides more evidence that journalists have become 'prime targets' in combat zones

It is looking increasingly possible that Sky news journalist Mick Deane was killed yesterday as part of a concerted attempt by the Egyptian authorities to silence the media.

We now know that numerous journalists were shot at, detained, harassed and otherwise roughed up across the country as security forces brutally cleared two protest camps in Cairo.

Mick, with Sky News colleague Sam Kiley, was covering an apparent atrocity being perpetrated at the Rabaa al-Adawiya protest camp.

Kiley spoke about a "massive military assault on largely unarmed civilians”. Afterwards he wrote: “I have covered many wars and this is as severe a battlefield as I have witnessed, with the exception of scenes in Rwanda.

"There are dozens and dozens of people who have been shot in the head, neck and upper body."

With all his broadcasting gear Deane would have been clearly identifiable as a journalist.

A witness told the Daily Mirror: "Mick was about to lift the camera to his shoulder when a sniper opened fire and killed him instantly."

He is the third journalist from a UK news organisation to be killed covering events in the Middle East and North Africa since the ‘Arab Spring’ erupted in early 2011.

Sunday Times reporter Marie Colvin was killed covering the shelling of civilians in the besieged Syrian city of Homs in February 2012 and photographer Tim Hetherington died in a mortar blast during fighting between local militia and forces loyal to colonel Gadaffi in Libya in April 2011.

Colvin was staying in a makeshift media centre which was apparently deliberately shelled by the Syrian army.

In November 2010 Colvin said: "It has never been more dangerous to be a war correspondent, because the journalist in the combat zone has become a prime target."

The killing of Mick Deane, and the other attacks on journalists in Egypt this week, prove  that now – more than ever – this is the case.

It’s often said that no story is worth risking the life of a reporter. But I wonder how many lives have been saved throughout the Middle East in recent years because journalists have placed the eyes of the world on violent clashes between protestors and security forces?

The attacks on journalists in Egypt this week by the country's security services, as chronicled by the Committee to Protect Journalists, suggest the authorities there care very much about how they are portrayed in the media.

Sky News has followed the various uprisings around the Arab world particularly closely. Reporter Alex Crawford told Press Gazette in 2011 about the reaction local people gave to journalists covering demonstrations in Bahrain earlier that year:

“When we were coming under fire and being tear-gassed total strangers would be taking us in and helping us and driving us around and refusing to be paid.

“We were being given flowers and people were saying thank you so much, thanking us as an industry the whole of the media.”

Journalists don’t have the best reputation as a profession – typically ranking somewhere between estate agents and investment bankers in the public’s estimation. But how many estate agents and investment bankers risk their lives to give a voice to defenceless civilians in some of the most dangerous places in the world?

The killing of Mick Deane proves once again that, at its best, journalism is a noble calling which sometimes requires the ultimate sacrifice to be made for the most worthwhile of causes.

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