June 18th, 2008 22:10 EST
LONDON, England. Nasteh Dahir said he could die for something he loved: journalism. When you live in Somalia this determination takes on a different meaning as death lurks behind every corner. Hardly any correspondent dared to go to places that Dahir visited on a daily basis, fearlessly reporting for the BBC. It was during one of such errands that unknown fighters shot him in the chest and stomach. He left behind his pregnant wife and a 10-month-old son.
It was for Nasteh Dahir and other journalists who died on duty that the BBC dedicated a sculpture, unveiled on Monday. The cone-like modern construction made of glass and steel was installed on the top of the famous Broadcasting House building in the heart of London where numerous BBC correspondents learned the demanding craft of journalism before embarking on foreign assignments.
The sculpture, entitled Breathing, was designed by Jaume Plensa. The Spaniard, whose works are exhibited in Europe and the United States, won the international contest that drew some of the most acclaimed artists. The 32-feet high cone bears a text confronting death and life, silence and speech.
Among those who paid tribute to killed journalists was United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. During his speech, Mr. Ban said that people should remember how much they owe to reporters who, risking their lives, inform the world about conflicts, crises, and wars.
Looking at the memorial, the secretary general said that "it stood in tribute to all those who have sacrificed their lives so that the rest of us could be informed." But Mr. Ban added that the sculpture - beautifully lighted for 30 minutes every night - was also a sign for journalists around the world that their job was widely appreciated.
"But it is also for those who survive, those who are out there right now - risking their lives to report what they uncover in the face of deadly threats," said the secretary general.
Probably the most touching words came from Rodney Pinder, director of the International News Safety Institute. "These men and women are the unsung heroes of democracy, for without a free press there can be no freedom," Mr. Pinder said. "This shaft of light in the capital of international journalism is a visual reminder of their sacrifice."
In the same spirit spoke Sir Michael Lyons, the chairman of BBC. "The implicit contract, whereby journalists place their lives at risk to help us understand the world and its events better, needs to be reaffirmed," he said. Mr. Lyons acknowledged that only during such ceremonies, media people who sacrificed their lives are remembered and properly valued.
Jeremy Bowen, a long-time British war correspondent, said that never before have journalists become targets as often as these days. According to the BBC, in the past decade, two media people were killed every week. In his latest article, Mr. Bowen wrote, "With so many risks out there, the unfortunate truth is that surviving in a war, even for the most experienced and best trained, requires a strong element of luck. And people`s luck runs out."
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