This month marks 75 years since the murder of legendary CBS newsman George Polk. Our remembrance comes from CBS News' Steven Portnoy, host of the radio documentary,
You may have heard his name before, probably from the George Polk Awards, given out each year for courageous journalism. Polk was very likely killed because of what he was bravely reporting.
During a civil war in Greece in the late 1940s, Polk depicted the right-wing Greek government as corrupt. At the time, the U.S. had spent hundreds of millions of dollars to prop up that government as it battled communist guerillas. Our reporter had reason to suspect the Greek authorities were hoarding that U.S. aid.
The legendary CBS newsman Edward R. Murrow called Polk a "34-year-old, tall, lean, blonde American, full of courage and an insatiable appetite for truth."
George Polk wanted to bring Americans the full story. He aimed to interview the leader of the Greek communists. A week later, Polk's body was pulled out of Salonika Bay, shot in the back of the head.
The Greek authorities tortured a suspected communist until he falsely confessed a role. He was sentenced to life in prison. But compounding that injustice, documents show U.S. officials conspired to suppress doubts about the man's innocence – a Cold War coverup.
Today, around the world, journalist killings and detentions are on the rise. The Committee to Protect Journalists says 67 media workers were killed last year alone.
- Report: Deadly year for journalists as killings rose sharply in 2022 (CPJ)
- Data on 2022 killings of journalists and media workers
Fromto to , reporters are increasingly being targeted because of the work they do for readers, viewers and listeners, just as Polk was targeted 75 years ago this month.
It's important that we not forget.
Stream the CBS News radio documentary "Who Killed George Polk?" here:
For more info:
- More on the CBS News Radio documentary
- Follow Steven Portnoy on Twitter
Story produced by Robert Marston. Editor: Emanuele Secci.
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