The journalist’s challenge to distinguish fact from fiction and achieve balance in reporting is never easy. A violent confrontation like the one in Donbass makes the job immeasurably harder. However, journalists face the huge but vital challenge of trying as best as they can to make sense of what is happening and giving a voice to those affected.
This short publication aims to provide some pointers and practical advice on how to stay safe while getting closer to the heart of what is going on. It is not an exhaustive guide to reporting conflict but a short introduction to some of the challenges reporters face in a bitterly divided area.
Expect to meet some hostility, particularly from civilians caught in the middle of the conflict, and look out for obvious examples of bias, misinformation or blatant propaganda.
In any conflict, rumours, scaremongering and urban myths can quickly become accepted as fact.
What’s more, in a situation which has utterly divided opinion and led to a war of words through the media, it will be hard for journalists to report information seen as critical of their own side. Reporting conflict is never a straightforward task and often a journalist will have only partial information because of the physical difficulties and dangers involved. However, the basic journalistic instinct to question whatever they are told and look for evidence to support or devalue what is being said must remain the touchstone.
Mark has led training programmes in Africa and Eastern Europe, most recently in Ukraine for the Regional Voices project. He spent 30 years working as a journalist for international print and broadcasting organisations.