Truth is journalists most important weapon when
covering conflicts

By Magda Abu-Fadil

I’ve lived and worked in countries where
the media are stifled and bent to the wills
of despicable rulers whose creed is akin
to George Orwell’s “1984.”

But I don’t believe the public is better
served when journalists cross the line
from reporting to activism by publicly taking sides in conflict situations, which may
endanger them and their media organizations, and undermine their credibility.

Christiane Amanpour, chief international correspondent and anchor at
CNN, was unequivocal on this during
remarks she made while accepting a
Committee to Protect Journalists award
in 2016.

She appealed to “protect journalism itself, to recommit to robust fact-based reporting, without fear and without favors on the issues.”

Amanpour is no stranger to controversy,
having covered conflicts worldwide. “I
believe in being truthful, not neutral,”
she said.

“I believe we must stop banalizing the truth. We have to be prepared
to fight especially hard right now for the
truth because this is a world where the
Oxford English dictionary announced
just last week its word for 2016, and that
is ‘post-truth’.”

I agree.

Truth is the weapon members of the
media deploy when covering conflicts.
Ultimately, it will alienate one or more parties in war zones, a risk journalists have
learned to accept as par for the course.

“We are journalists, not activists,” Rima
Maktabi, the UK bureau chief of Al Arabiya satellite news channel, told a politician in her native Lebanon who tried to
extract an opinion from her during coverage of the October 17, 2019 “revolution”that would have made her appear to favor
one faction in the conflict over another.

Her statement reinforced my belief that
journalists covering conflicts in their
backyards should not cross the line from
sympathy to active support of causes.

For American-Lebanese journalist/author
Sulome Anderson, we should be compassionate towards victimized people.

“Let yourself care about their plight and show them compassion – but draw strongboundaries around what is yours to carry and what isn’t,” she said, adding that journalists risk losing perspective if they’re too engrossed in the story.

I don’t advocate detached coverage of
conflicts. Such issues are too complex
for simplistic formulaic journalism.

They require deft handling and solid understanding of the context in which they
exist.

But if journalists aim to score activist
points by drowning each other out with
their personal involvement in conflict situations, the cacophony becomes deafening, and everyone loses sight of what the
real story is.

It also defeats the purpose of disseminating untainted solid news, which the
audience needs.
Journalists, as a result of their tilt to activism, are often seen as promoting disinformation. But in this age of dis-, mis- and mal-information, to actually do so would
mean digging their own figurative and literal graves.

This article was culled from on DW Akademie website

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