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2015-01_dc

D+C Vol.42.2015:1 17 symptoms, including depression. Due to the daily threats, they had to give up their work. Not all journalists who report about war and cri- sis will be traumatised, but anxiety disorders are common. Noises, images, sounds and smells con- nected to an experience of violence can be etched into the mind so deeply that they gain a life of their own. Journalists who are affected may be terrified by peaceful fireworks long after having returned form their assignment to a safe home. They may fear crowds of people or sexual assaults – as they wit- nessed on the Tahrir square in Cairo for example. Others are haunted by vividly recurring memories of a colleague who was shot. Media houses and editorial offices back home tend not to know how to deal appropriately with the reporters they expose to danger. Editorial staff at the head office oversee assignment, but they normally have no first-hand experience of crisis areas, nor do they have an understanding of how to prepare the reporters for crisis scenarios abroad. Wrong deci- sions, however, may have serious consequences. Interviewing victims ­sensitively Journalism schools teach students to interview poli­ ticians, stars and other eloquent persons, but jour­ nalists are normally not taught how to talk with people who have experienced something traumatic. Victims of violence, people who were tortured or raped in war or who have suffered hunger must be interviewed in a dif- ferent manner than politicians or celebrities. The fundamental and iron rule is: “Do no harm.” Dart Center workshops impart how journalists can deal empathetically with victims of sexualised vio- lence, people who have lost loved ones or who have survived an assault. It is important to understand that traumatised people are not reliable sources, be- cause their perceptions can be twisted. Moreover, the experience of an interviewee can also prove to be “contagious”, as trauma therapist and media teacher Fee Rojas puts it, when journalists feel strong empathy with victims. The Dart Center in- vites people from aid agencies and victims’ associa- tions to share their insights with workshop partici- pants. Such exchange is fruitful. Journalists have to learn what supports them in their daily work. Things that matter include support from colleagues, strategies of self-care, chats with friends, social networks and – last but not least – the act of writing and reporting itself. Journalists who tackle these matters in their coverage are less at risk of emotional harm than photojournalists, camera- men and media technicians. In order to cope with memories, it is important not to deny them, but to accept them as part of one’s life. It is also essential to acknowledge that having nightmares is normal – and to fetch help if they do not stop. International agencies provide only few training opportunities and support programmes for jour­ nalists in developing countries and especially in cri- sis states. The CPJ and Reporters without Borders offer some support to journalists in need and their families in terms of asylum, grants, medical care and financial assistance. Both organisations also provide information on security measures and pre- caution. The Rory Peck Trust Fund and the News Safety Institute organise security trainings too. A few years ago, the International Red Cross estab- lished a hotline and an e-mail address for journal- ists in distress with an eye to organising help. The idea is to mobilise medical assistance in case of a sudden incident, or to get in touch with a hos- tage’s kidnapper for instance. However, psychological support is not offered in the systematic and sustainable way needed. After a workshop with Dart Center and local trauma ther- apists, Francois, the Haitian journal- ist, developed a “peer support” system among local journalists in Haiti. In 2007, in Cambodia a training for local journalists took place, co-organised by the Dart Center. The focus was on what the media can do to facilitate coming to terms with a violent past. The violent terrorism of the Khmer Rouge regime traumatised many Cambodians, including journalists, and the impact is still felt today. Al- most all families lost loved ones. Humanitarian-relief agencies prepare staff for cri- sis missions as a standard routine, but media houses do not do so. One reason is lack of funds, especially in view of the dwindling media revenues in rich nations. This is the wrong approach to saving money however. Journalists who report unscathed and in a balanced way from war and crisis zones, after all, safeguard the freedoms of expression and opinion. Links: Dart Center: http://www.dartcenter.org Reporters without Borders: http://www.rsf.org Committee to Protect Journalists: http://www.cpj.org Rory Peck Trust Fund: https://rorypecktrust.org/ International News Safety Institute: http://www.newssafety.org ICRC Hotline Assistance for journalists on dangerous assignments: 0041 79 217 32 85, Email: [email protected] Petra Tabeling coordinates the German office of the Dart Center for Trauma and Journalism in Cologne. [email protected] “The fundamental and iron rule is: ‘Do no harm’.”

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