Tonya Alanez

As a crime reporter for the Sun Sentinel in Fort Lauderdale, Tonya Alanez ‘03 has spent considerable time covering the results of violence. What she had never had to contend with was violence aimed at her as a reporter or her newsroom.

In January of this year, that all changed. Alanez and nine other American journalists embarked on an exchange program to Pakistan — ranked among the five deadliest countries for the media — where members of the press are routinely intimidated, threatened, kidnapped and killed.

“Never has my newsroom been bombed, shot at, lobbed with grenades. Never have colleagues been gunned down at point-blank range,” Alanez wrote in an article in the Sun Sentinel sharing the respect she developed for her Pakistani colleagues.

The two-week program, arranged by the International Center for Journalists and sponsored by the U.S. State Department, took the reporters from Karachi, to Lahore and to Islamabad. Their days were packed with meetings at political headquarters, the National Assembly and the Karachi Stock Exchange.

“In two days, I visited a newsroom that’s been bombed, banged the Karachi Stock Exchange gong, gave an on-camera interview to a Pakistani TV anchor, had dinner at the US Consulate General’s and saw a herd of camels,” Alanez posted to her Facebook during the program. “And that’s only a fraction of it.”

When Alanez returned to Fort Lauderdale and was back on assignment in the Sun Sentinel’s newsroom, another Karachi news organization was targeted. Gunmen opened fire and lobbed grenades at Aaj TV. On March 28, another fatal attack was carried out against Express Media group.

“The dedication and resilience of those gutsy Pakistani journalists is the memory I carry closest to my heart,” Alanez wrote in her article. “I think of them daily… They risk their lives to report truth.”

–Hayley Lane, ’15 Journalism