Palestinian journalist calls for careful coverage in conflict zones

The Venetian Hotel in Macau, China was the venue of the 6th Asia Media Summit
The Venetian Hotel in Macau, China was the venue of the 6th Asia Media Summit

Media practitioners in conflict zones have to take special care when reporting or covering events because they can turn potential conflicts into full-fledged ones, according to a radio program host and university lecturer from Palestine.

Saed Jamal Abu-Hijleh said at the 6th Asia Media Summit that news organizations have “been used to justify state terrorism as legitimate violence.”

“For example, many journalists cover massacres or attacks on civilians using military terminology that is cold and calculative, when in fact the action or incident constitutes a tragic massacre,” he said.

Stories to cover

I think reporters should, as much as possible, try to veer away from the story angles that militaries from around the world feed them.

Good thing I still have a copy of the handout on conflict reporting given by the instructor at the Specialized Reporting class that I took in college. Why? It offers some good angles to pursue when a journalist is covering a conflict zone:

  • The social, political and economic effects and costs of the war
  • The response of the people to the war
  • The crafting of policy, which includes policy shifts and strategies
  • The war’s impact on the environment
  • What the war is all about

Context

The “what the war is all about” angle is very crucial in conflict reporting.

“Many reporters do not have adequate understanding of the conflicts.”

– Saed Jamal Abu-Hijleh, Palestinian journalist

Saed Jamal Abu-Hijleh stressed the importance of knowing the root cause of the discord in conflict zones.

If a reporter does not know the origins of the dispute, he or she would come up with out of context stories, he said.

“Many reporters do not have adequate understanding of the conflicts and thus can cause considerable damage by shallow or inaccurate reporting,” he added.

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