Monday, May 21, 2018

The 12th Al Jazeera Forum: Session 6 - The Media During Times of Crisis

Responsibility of Combatants: 
Don't Kill Journalists!

On April 28-29, 2018, Al Jazeera held its 12th Forum providing an opportunity for leading scholars and other experts to discuss a variety of topics affecting the Arab world.  The website for the forum, @aljazeeraform, provides additional information and links to the videos of each session.  You can follow the Twitter coverage at #AJForum.

As I noted in my first post in this series, I am working from my notes, so I apologize in advance if I incorrectly paraphrase the remarks of any speaker. I was also reliant on the quality of the translation services and their audibility. Therefore, I am happy to make any needed edits to this summary.

For summaries of the other sessions see:
Session 6: The Media During Times of Crisis and Transitional Stages

Session focus:

While the media covers crises, conflicts, and wars; narrates events and puts their developments and trajectories into frameworks; and relays the perspectives of parties involve[d] in them; it also sheds light on the human dimension.  This is the core of humanitarian work.

The politicization of media usually exacerbates crises and conflicts, especially if news fabrication is applied to create an artificial political situation that conflicts with reality in order to impact political positions, decisions, and courses.  This in turn threatens security, peace and stability, and negatively affects human conditions.

What are the key purposes of the media during crises, conflicts, and wars?  What are the relevant values that govern media and humanitarian work?


  • Yehia Ghanem, Managing Editor of Al-Ahram International and Supervisor of Arab Reporters for Investigative Journalism Network (ARIJ).
  • Purnaka de Silva, Director of the Institute for Strategic Studies and Democracy (ISSD) in Malta.
  • Elsadig Ibrahim Ahmed Ibrahim, President of the Sudanese Journalists General Union.
  • Abdulwaheed Odusile, President of the Federation of African Journalists (FAJ) and the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ).
  • John Yearwood, Director of the Executive Board of the International Press Institute (IPI) and President and CEO of Yearwood Media Group. 
Key points:

Yehia Ghanem:  Al Jazeera redefined media in the region.  Prior to 1996, all media was state controlled.  From 1996 to 2001, it redefined disasters to include natural and man-made.  Focused on the humanitarian aspects of the disasters.  From 2001 to 2007, it began expressing the feeling of the "world against us (Arabs)."  Began with the Afghanistan war.  Made its resources open to all parties.  Focused on the horrors experienced by the people with field work rather than news room work.  Focused on people away from the power centers. 

Western media depicted Arabs and Africans as people to fear.  But, Al Jazeera looked at the economic, political, and social experiences of people in these regions, while showing the role the West had in creating the situations there.

By having bureaus in these regions, it had more access to the evolving stories. 

Purnaka de Silva:  Media impacts policy-making.  Provides a voice for the voiceless.  Shows suffering and the victims of human rights crimes.

No political will exists to de-escalate and de-militarize in the region.  To humanize.  Absence of diplomacy in the Gulf dispute.  Would hope the GCC family could set aside the disputes.

Media becomes essential to settling these disputes.

Showed a map of the routes for human trafficking.  Spoke of his suspicions that the mafia has seized control of the immigration facilities in Sicily and may be using the vulnerability of the people to force organ donations.  Journalists noticed that immigrants were asked to take blood tests before arrival and that the organ transplant center nearby expanded in 2011. Too dangerous to do further investigation.

Elsadig Ibrahim Ahmed Ibrahim:  East Africa has been given a very dark media image.

Abdulwaheed Odusile:  [I apologize to this speaker and the prior speaker for losing my concentration and having few, if any notes, about their presentations.]

John Yearwood:  In conflict zones, certain responsibilities exist.

For combatants, the rules are:
  • Don't kill journalists!
  • Respect the Geneva Convention on press access.
  • Respect the role of journalists.
  • Don't make journalists afraid to cover a story (e.g. ISIS beheading of a journalist).
For journalists:
  • Don't choose sides.
  • Be fair and accurate.

For public:
  • Push media to report fairly and accurately.
  • When that is not happening, report the gap and demonstrate for better reporting.

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