Challenges of reporting conflicts and disasters highlighted -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

Challenges of reporting conflicts and disasters highlighted

mtiaz Ali

Karachi: The deteriorating security situation in Karachi has made it difficult for journalists to impartially report on incidents of violence, speakers at a media workshop at the Karachi Press Club said on Monday.

The workshop, which was organised by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in collaboration with the Karachi Press Club (KPC), highlighted the challenges journalists faced in covering conflicts and natural disasters.

Senior journalist Kamal Siddiqi said one of the main challenges faced by journalists in conflicts was gaining access to the zone of conflict and verifying information.

In case of natural disasters, the main challenge pertained to logistics; however, in either situation, it was necessary to take a broader picture into account, he said.

Siddiqi said the devastating earthquake had transformed the way disasters were covered by the media.

Talking about the advantages and disadvantages of different sources of news such as local and foreign wire services, district correspondents and special correspondents, he was of the view that a lack of funds and security tended to hamper the media coverage to a large extent.

He said that relief organisations and aid workers could help journalists by providing first-hand accounts of events.

Talking about reporting on the devastating floods in Sindh, Siddiqi said it was the job of the journalists to ascertain why the Tori Bund was breached while others remained intact.

He said that the war correspondents of yesteryear had been replaced by “embedded journalists” who were sometimes treated as enemies by the stakeholders in the conflict.

He said it was a real challenge to cover Balochistan as security was a stumbling block there. He regretted that the compulsion of breaking news led to misreporting.

Senior journalist Shamim-ur-Rahman said that understanding the nature of conflict and ensuring safety was imperative for journalists as dead reporters did not file stories.

He said that while covering the conflict, a reporter should try to understand the exit point.

However, covering growing urban violence or targeted killings required different preparations. He said it was not easy to cover urban violence in which different stakeholders were involved, including the police, who might not let the reporters get away with their impartial reporting.

Rehman said that targeted killings were a serious business, and crime reporters should not rely merely on press conferences or visiting the central police office.

He said that apart from personal safety, the reporters should also be careful as militants might use them for publicising their cause.

Rahman said the nature of the job of war correspondents had changed and so had the nature of domestic conflicts.

He said the breakdown of the social system in the country had affected people in many ways.

The communication coordinator of the ICRC Pakistan, Michael Obrien, tracing the history of involvement of the ICRC in the country, said the ICRC had been involved in mass casualty events in Karachi and Lahore for the last one year as the level of urban violence had increased in major cities.

The head of the Karachi ICRC, Peter Lick, said the council had taken an initiative in collaboration with the Sindh home department to improve conditions at prisons in the province.

He said the purpose of the initiative was to assist the authorities with regard to the universal rules for treatment of prisoners.

ICRC spokesperson Sitara Jabeen and KPC President Tahir Hasan Khan also spoke on the occasion.
Source: Daily Times
Date:4/5/2011