Don’t Shoot!: Activism in Journalism

With the bloodiest and most violent events in recent years to have taken place during the Arab Spring, last year saw a record death toll for journalists and their photographers. As societies rebuild and adjust to the overthrowing of dictators such as Hosni Mubarak and Muammar Gaddafi; significant changes are being seen throughout the media in the Middle East.

Reporting from the front line of protests and uprisings, Arab Spring journalists faced teargas, beatings, torture and imprisonment in order to share the vital developments taking place with the rest of the world. Having to take such great risks requires great bravery from journalists, who, despite the violence and attacks they face, do not carry weapons. Journalists must remain unbiased and neutral throughout their time reporting events, even in the face of human rights abuses, the roles of journalist and political activist must remain separate. In order for fairness, truth, responsibility and trust, journalists must respect their role, through not taking part in protests and demonstrations.

The 1947 Geneva conventions protect journalists as citizens in conflicts; however, if a journalist takes action, making themselves a participant in the conflict, they can be directly targeted. In certain countries journalists have been specifically targeted during conflicts, such as CNN reporters entering Iraq in 2002 who received threats.

Training for reporters covering armed conflicts, dealing with hostile environments is offered by British security forces. Whilst this equips journalists with survival skills such as negotiation and weapon identification, having a fundamental understanding of the role of journalists seems to be the most important factor in conflict reporting. Importantly, the International Red Cross and Red Crescent movement issues safety guidelines to journalists in conflict zones which provide vital safety information, country by country, they also offer a hotline for journalists in areas of conflict to call in times of danger.

Whilst measures are in place to protect the independence of journalists in conflict, it is the opinion of some that resources for journalists are inadequate and more needs to be done to ensure their safety.

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