Handbook on professional safety of journalists working in the post-conflict situations: North Caucasus

The most difficult task for professional journalists is probably the coverage of ethnic and religious conflicts. Until the end of 1980th, Soviet journalists had a very vague idea on how to cover such conflicts. There are many examples of articles that provoked the sense of injustice among the participants of a conflict. One can remember public protests against articles insulting national feelings of thousands of people.

In the post-Soviet media the situation is not very much different. Only a small number of published articles are written in a neutral and objective manner, by the journalists who support neither of the sides of a conflict. This can be explained by different reasons. First of all, many journalists sincerely believe that their duty is to tell the truth, which makes them to adopt the point of view of one of the sides of a conflict. These journalists put themselves into the position of judges, which is not appropriate for their profession.

The lack of professionalism of media workers is another issue. Bias is so strong in Russian journalism that many of its representatives are simply not able to act as objective observers of important events.

One more explanation consists in the fact that an ethnic conflict is rarely covered only by one article. Usually conflicts progress in time, and journalists often come back in their news items to the same situations. The media coverage of a conflict should, therefore, be well organized by editors-in-chief and leaders of media companies in order to ensure that the feelings of both sides of a conflict are respected.

The media has an enormous responsibility in the coverage of conflicts. Balanced coverage is extremely important, because journalistic mistakes can worsen the situation and lead to a tragedy for a number of people.
One book cannot, of course, solve the entire problem. But the authors expect that their publication will help journalists cover conflicts in a more professional way, leading to reconciliation processes.

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