Issues In Reporting War And Crisis Global Overview Media Essay

The mass media have a powerful influence and control on how people view the world. Mass media sources i.e. newspapers, televisions and radios are frequently the only link to the situations occurring outside of one’s vicinity. We live in the global age. We live in a world that has become thoroughly interconnected, interdependent and communicated in the flows of information and culture – including, significantly, news journalism.(Cotler,

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For journalism in America today, the news has been encouraging and dispiriting. At its very best, during a time of crisis or a momentous event, the news media can do a marvelous job of telling the job the news thoroughly, yet quickly then follow up with needed interpretation and explanation to inform and reassure the public. Reporter plays a vital role because how the reporter frames the crisis, war or conflict. A story covered by a journalist or a reporter on an event can be the exclusive information presented to the masses. The news can bias the masses in support of one party, or one solution over another; it can build up the conflict, or cool it down.

Whenever, the public think about any news, most of report is “crisis” and importantly journalists are participants in the crisis they report. However, the journalist’s main goal is to in form accurately and usually they make every suitable effort and attempt to be “objective,” but it becomes complicated at best. At times attempts to cover both views equally is actually favoring and supporting one over the other. If the report or news doesn’t show that one overview is much more predominate, over another, it is commonly wrongly believed.

Globally, if we analyze the situation of journalism there are many hazards and difficulties in this field. The foremost problem is that in the profession of journalism there is lack of training for journalists. Another one of the most pressing problems for the journalist is the question of ethics and the way reporting has to be shaped because of them. So due to these problems most of the complex crisis or conflicts are full of difficulties and hazards for journalists, but the more one understands what is actually going on in a conflict, and the responsibility of the conflict journalist, the better reporting one can do.

From environmental change to the global war on terror, from forced migration to humanitarian catastrophe – these are just some of the global crises. Global crises are conceived as the dark side of a globalizing world, but how they become reported and covered in the news media can also help maintain growing forms of global consciousness, global citizenship and global civil society.

The news media have long been participant in the drama of war. The Spanish-American War of 1898 was provoked in pan by nationalistic press in the United States. Seventy years later, the media were involved in another war: The lack of public support for the US effort in Vietnam was blamed in part on correspondents who adopted a skeptical attitude in their assessment of Pentagon war claims. But rarely has the work of war correspondents come under the kind of scrutiny it does today. Journalists these days are not only accused of aggravating conflicts – they are also expected to resolve them.

The smaller the war and the wider their reach, the more impact of reporting is believed to have. Advances in information technology have made it possible for journalists to report instantaneously and immediately from remote locations. With the downscaling of conflict in the post-Cold War era, meanwhile, there are more wars to choose from. Some get covered and some don’t, and the coverage decisions can be critical.

All over the globe, professional editors and reporters define their job as bringing readers and audiences the answers to ‘five w’s and one h’ – who, what, where, when, why and how.

Due to the advent of new technology, journalists and reporters are able to communicate with one another more easily. So people on location in the desert can talk with those covering the Pentagon or the White House to confirm details. “All of this technology was available in the Gulf War, but it was just really primitive,” says Bob Murphy, a senior vice president at ABC News.

George Seldes once said,

“Journalism’s job is not impartial ‘balanced’ reporting. Journalism’s job is to tell the people what is really going on.”

A prominent BBC figure said:

“It will always be a grey area. There are never simply two sides to a story, there’s a multiplicity of sides, which stretches out and stretches back. There’s a multiplicity of effects and of what’s in the public interest, which will vary from issue to issue, from story to story. I don’t see how you can logically, and rationally, impose some sort of blueprint which enables you to know whether it’s in the public interest or not.”

The news accuracy, unfortunately, is relative. Hence, one journalist’s truth is another man’s misrepresentation. The public in general differentiate between truth and falsity in the course of a certain sieve they adhere to. And in today’s world where there is a mix of religious and spiritual ideologies and philosophies, build out the truth is at best an educated guess – unless of course the whole world starts seeing things through a single lens.

Furthermore, it is journalists pivotal role that how to differentiate between objective and subjective realities. This confusion aggravated in case of crisis and war since it is not in the nature of the conflict to be unbiased. There will always be, whether it’s a economic, natural, military or political crisis, at least one party which acts in excess relative to the other party/parties.

The media as a watch dog can play considerable role in scrutinizing and examining the public policies through analysis and furthermore with the response of public at large. It is observed that the media reporters are extremely useful sources in providing initial leads to investigate into the crisis, discrimination, conflict and war.


Pakistan was born as an unambiguously Muslim state, and the wrestling linking its secular and Islamic natures has never been so evident as in latest years. Its other sources of unrest, including the military’s role as the authority of power, there have been four coups in its 60 years of independence i.e. its uncontrolled corruption and political instability and economic flux have been joined by the rise of Islamic militant groups that control of parts of the country’s western half and launch attacks that have slowly goaded the government to action.

The ongoing violence in Pakistan, where over 1000’s of people have been killed in terrorist activities, reminds us that journalists face a special challenge-and responsibility-to report accurately and fairly in times of crisis and war. Journalists play a constructive and productive role in places involved in political, ethnic or religious tensions.

Pakistan has many problems, most build up after decades of governmental inaction, economic mismanagement, military coups and terrorist insurgencies. The journalists now would be under enormous stress from the complexities and the enormities of the current multifaceted challenges.

Pakistan’s press has developed into a dynamic and significant institution. The Pakistani media have been instrumental in providing breaking real-time coverage of major events affecting the country, including the lawyers’ movement, the February 2008 parliamentary elections, and the recent flood situation. The number of private media outlets is increasing, and newspapers are more open in their reporting that has ultimately changed the country.

It was expected by media organizations that the media especially electronic media following its incomparable development during the last few years would take accumulate its roles and responsibilities. The demanding environments are not encouraging to a culture of informed debate and the growth of sound authoritarian regimes. Nevertheless, there have been noises, pleas and appeals by several viewers, masses, analysts, forecasters and citizens even within the media organizations.

From the violence and cruelty of displaying dismembered and mutilate limbs on television screens to creating a panic-oriented news culture and relegating the status of objective anchors to partisan political players, as a result the news were and persistent to be, disturbing and agitate. Against the milieu of the events of March 2009, the responsibility of the media lacked in many areas and far behind the expectations. The self admiring panic that currently pervades the various channels betrays their utter inability to appear back and introspect.

In Pakistan’s crisis and war zones, rival groups seek to dictate the content and tone of news coverage. The country lost eight journalists in 2008, while 2009 has been equally gloomy. The murder of Musa Khankhel while he was reporting on a ceasefire negotiated in the pictorial but unstable Swat valley in Pakistan’s north-west shocked the country.

According to the Report of World Press Freedom 2008-09, a total of nine journalists have lost their lives to violence in different parts of Pakistan. Furthermore, this report also files 23 cases of physical torture, threats and kidnaps that involved journalists and have resultantly greatly affected their work.

Taking in concern the latest war zone of Pakistan i.e. operation in Swat Valley it is not just the targeted assassination of journalists and use of threats that are obliterating journalism. As a consequence, journalists they are not safe so they are leaving the region or moving their families to secure and harmless areas. Quite less journalists remain in the war area so there is less reporting from those areas. The biggest casualty of this war are the journalists rather the conflict itself.

A renowned journalist Mazhar Abbas, who has for years contributed persistent efforts for the battle of the improvement of the operational circumstances of journalists in Pakistan, protect the judgment of many media professionals to move. He said:

“They are so poorly paid – on an average they draw a monthly pay of less than 200 US dollars and have no life insurance cover – that can you honestly expect them to risk their lives? Only one or two TV channels provide their staff with flak jackets and helmets. Until recently, they had no training on how to report from hostile environments. It is the PFUJ, in cooperation with the International Federation of Journalists that has trained more than 200 Pakistani journalists working in the conflict zones.”

News is treated more as a commodity than as a social good, in Pakistani media and it is one of the primary problems. This rudimentary thought direct journalist’s to use metaphors, fancy expressions, axioms, and emotionally-charged opinions etc which effects the meaning whether they are exaggerated or do not tell the truth. These kinds of writings create distortions.

The above described commodity concept also pushes reporters and journalists to use high pitched tones – often choosing to report heavily on juicy feature of stories with shock value rather than reporting or informing on more imperative issues to the general public. One might say that if media is reflecting the general public, then these sensational ways of speaking are vindicated, considering that Pakistanis are however loud and emotionally charged people. Although, then there is something called ‘Adab-e-Mehfil’: simple things like not speaking before one’s turn, not speaking loudly and so forth, that can be clearly seen in various Pakistani Talk Shows e.g. Capital Talk, Point in Focus etc. Rather the guests should be asked to present cultured and educated way of argumentation, based on facts and logic, instead of campaigns of slander, filled with cheap tricks and mocking undertones.

To continue this problem it leads to: ‘If It Bleeds, It Leads’ using the title of Mathew Kerbel’s famous book. This implies that media in Pakistan is passionate with the short end of the problem, or the symptom as it is quite rightly said. The challenge of social inequities, usually the root cause, rarely gets air best a personalized story or a documentary and then, moves on to something more exciting such as a blast.

Pakistani media in general is responsible for factual reporting realities, but it has not met the standard of reporting. In Pakistan, media, abandon responsibility and accuracy for the purpose of sensation and attention grabbing captions. Especially, the print media is accountable for failing to shield the masses from inaccurate information which sometimes reaches public disguised as news. But when coming to the electronic media, it has become the biggest threat to country’s collective confidence. It ultimately thrives on conspiracies and sensational “breaking news’ headlines throughout the entire day.

Basically, rest of the media disclaim to grow above excessively vivid and completely overstated reporting of everything that goes wrong in the county, even if it is not correct or worse, or is less important.


Reporting in a crisis begins with fundamental question that how to report. News representations of crisis now form ‘a key site for the exercise of power, seen as such by “primary players” and many others besides’. This awareness, too, is shared by many beyond the traditional elite.

According to an influential critique of reporting of the Great Lakes crisis of 1996-1997, journalists should that understand from the start that warring factions, even if their soldiers wear gumboots, have now acquired a sophisticated military doctrine and techniques for fighting low-level information warfare using manipulation, disinformation, misinformation and obstruction.

The coverage of the Long March, also being maintained as a media success, was full of negligent opinion, which resulted in discouragement of elected institutions and glorifying street confrontation, as if parliaments were sheer attachment of power games. A few channels went beyond the norms of objective or even acceptable reporting by posturing that the proponents of the Long March were spouting the gospel truth, and any divergent view was unpatriotic and merited proceedings under Article 6 of the Constitution.

Instead of educating the public on the responsibility of institutions and how states function, the entire discourse before and after the Long March remains focused on individuals. It has been completely forgotten that the current President was elected by two thirds of the Electoral College as prescribed under the Constitution. If anything, the degradation of the President’s role as a usurper is now an image that has been carefully crafted and reinforced by a unvarying media discourse, and now made applicable to a president elected by Parliament. The truth of the matter is that in a parliamentary democracy the assemblies and officials are elected for five years. Accountability of the executive is a must, but not in the manner that is being carried out at the cost of the integrity of the autonomous system.


Tom Rosenstiel, director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism says:

“Today, war reporting means not that you know what’s going on and you make judgments about what’s safe and appropriate to report. The military profoundly limits the access of reporters and thus what reporters know”

Censorship is no longer achievable, now that reporters can carry their means of transmission with them – unlike World War II, for example, when reporters’ dispatches had to be transferred by the military, once they were reviewed. According to Tom Rosenstiel; as a result,

“A great deal more of what we consider war coverage today occurs in the Pentagon press briefing room.”

Taking in consideration the Pakistani situation; the Swat military operation, the house of a reporter in Mingora came under fire, apparently from the military. It killed his sister. The reporter was obviously incensed, but when he reported on television he still had to toe the official pro-Army editorial policy. He couldn’t risk his job, now more than ever, because he had to support his family who had just relocated from Mingora to Peshawar.

Another journalist based in Peshawar managed to get in to Mingora at a time when it was still off limits to journalists. He described horrific scenes of truckloads of dead bodies, and people carrying their loved ones.

But these stories weren’t getting out because the management was censoring them. The ISPR on the other hand was very active in issuing press releases everyday, detailing the number of militants who had been killed and the military personnel who had been “martyred” (but never any mention of civilians). The military had restricted journalists’ access to the war zone (other than the occasional ISPR-chaperoned visit) so there was no way for journalists to independently verify any of the claims. So unfortunately, they just repeated the ISPR claims on television as if they were the truth.

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Pakistani reporters flee fighting in the Swat valley, Zubeida Mustafa reports on the conflict’s effect on Pakistan’s press. “Journalists love the thrill of working in ‘conflict zones’ where they can cover events which change the course of history,” says Mazhar Abbas, the former Secretary General of the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ). “Sadly, this no longer holds true for Pakistani journalists required to cover the war in the Swat valley where they face dire security threats,” Abbas continues. “Every other day, there is news of journalists being killed or kidnapped, or threats to their families in the war-torn areas.”

These words concisely sum up the state of war coverage in Pakistan – as Bill Clinton in 2000 described Pakistan as the most dangerous in the world. It has become even more unsafe since this statement. The media faced many challenges even before the Pakistan army went on the offensive against the Taliban in Swat. The Swat valley, was in the grip of intermittent violence with the two sides locked in a battle for the hearts and minds of the people, before the region became a theatre of war, It is expected that, the role of the media; press, television and radio assumed imperative importance, as journalism influencing the analysis of the everyday man.

These are the least problems that a journalist face during reporting on the war in Swat last year, but rather reporters face more difficulties in covering the more recent wars in Waziristan, Orakzai and elsewhere. It may seem like there is a great deal of news coming from the war zone each day, but in reality it is a great big sanitized black hole in the distance, and we may never know about the civilian casualties.


An overabundance of TV news networks have set up in recent years. Intensely competitive, they have not avoid from covering shocking aftermaths of suicide bombings, stories of government corruption, or allowing their talk show hosts to be intrusive on air. In crisis situations, the cause of journalism would be better served if reporters and anchors were to err on the side of caution until rumors are confirmed beyond doubt. There was no need to show what looked like bodies – as it can be clearly seen in the reporting of Air Blue crash. Many of the journalists while covering the rescue operation at Margalla Hills crash sight used the words “dead bodies” – they weren’t whole after all. But instead of using these words they would have used ‘parts of bodies’ that would have been much more effective and convey so much more. However, sentiments don’t matter in the business of news anymore. It is a rat race – instead of searching for authentic and reliable information, reporters are simply searching for new ways to add more punch to stories. Victim’s emotions and personal stories are often exploited by the media to pull at the audiences heartstrings.

The past few years, proved to be a critical year for Pakistani media persons who were callously neglected by the media owners, vis-à-vis better wages, security of job and their life insurance, while they were increasingly targeted by the terrorists and other pressure groups in which numerous journalists lost their lives.

One of two media trainers who designed a special training program for Internews aimed at journalists who work for media outlets within strife-torn areas named as Fiona Lloyd says:

“For journalists who live and work ‘on the front line,’ one careless word or one inaccurate detail can ignite a conflict. But equally, one unambiguous, balanced report can help to resolve tension and neutralize fear.”

If truth is the first casualty of crisis, then correspondents reporting from regions of conflict face unique challenges in providing accurate and unbiased news.Pakistani journalists are caught in a vice between terrorists who use threats and kidnapping, and local government officials who do not hesitate to take the law into their own hands in order to detain troublesome reporters.


The main crisis in proper reporting is problems within an organization. The reporters and journalists must be properly educated, professionally trained and intellectually motivated to contribute towards the profession.


Crisis and war reporting requires unique skills and experience, so editors should choose journalists who are competent and mature enough because they are used to crisis situations. The journalists that are covering a war for the first time should not be sent there unaided, but be accompanied by a more experienced correspondent. A collaborated, co-operated and teamwork in the field should be encouraged. Editors should thoroughly debrief staff because when they come back they can learn from their experiences.


Regular training in how to cope and deal in crisis zones or war areas will help trims down the risk to journalists. Editors should inform staff and freelances of any special training offered by nationwide or globally qualified bodies and give them access to it. All journalists called upon to work in a intimidating environment should have first-aid training and preparation. Every accredited journalism school should disseminate its trainee with these issues.


Conferences, trainings and also workshops on innovation journalism best practices should be conducted. The conferences should be ranged from the models of modernization journalism to how to cover innovation – a ‘horizontal’ topic, crossing the normal invention lines in the news room. Pakistan’s journalism schools have not adequately met the needs of a rapidly changing and rapidly expanding media through innovation.


Specialization for journalists in explicit subject areas – political, for instance, or military – would produce more sophisticated reporting. So, the specialization should be encouraged.

Communication Skills:

Capacity-building needs range from the most basic to the most complex skills, methods and techniques. Both speaking and writing skills need to be emphasized. Even basic techniques, such as how to deal with visuals or how to balance a story, require far more attention and awareness than they presently obtain.



Journalists and their assistants should provide special correspondent working in war or crisis areas with reliable safety equipment (bullet-proof jackets, helmets and, if possible, armored vehicles), communication equipment (locator beacons) and endurance and first-aid kits.


Journalists and their assistants working in war zones or dangerous areas should have insurance to cover illness, repatriation, disability and loss of life. Concerned media authority should take all obligatory steps to provide this before sending or employing personal on dangerous mission. They should strictly observe and obey with all applicable professional conventions and agreements.

Fahad Desmukh, a freelance journalist, says,

“Something needs to be done to deal with the cutthroat competition that forces journalists, cameramen and even the drivers to take needless risks. Journalists should not be penalized for walking away from a dangerous assignment. Right now, the owners care more about protecting their cameras, vehicles and equipment rather than the lives of their employees.”



The media, public authorities, editors and journalists themselves shall systematically seek ways to assess and decrease the risks in war zones or conflict areas by consulting each other and exchanging all useful information. Risks to be taken by staff or freelance journalists, their assistants, local employees and support personnel require adequate preparation, information, insurance and equipment.


The journalists should evaluate the newsworthiness. When evaluating the newsworthiness of a story or footage – the ethics of the situation should be assessed. When it comes to angst there is a simple standard: let mourning be private and when it comes to violence: speech is better visuals. The portrayal of violent or grief images increases the probability of several negative and pessimistic affects. This results in an aggressive and antagonistic behavior. According to a study by James W. Potter on Media Violence there are two prevalent affects – desensitization and fear that are increasing due to the unethical treatment of media.

Breaking News:

It is noted that reporting ethics are involved in reporting of war and crisis. Special trainings to the journalists can play an integral role as reporting is done differently in normal and crisis/war situations. Most of the journalists show tears, dead bodies and interviews with the victims family and this is ethically immoral.


The protection of journalists working on dangerous mission is not always assured, even if law provides adequate protection on paper, because forces these days are showing less respect for that law. News-gatherers cannot get assurances from belligerents that they will be fully protected.

Because of the risks they run to keep the public informed, media workers, journalists and their assistants (whether permanent staff or freelance) working in war zones or dangerous areas are entitled to vital protection, reimbursement, compensation and guarantees from their concerned authorities, though protection must never be taken to mean supervision by local military and governmental authorities.

A number of journalists while reporting about the situation in the tribal belt, they have been threatened and subjected to the most obnoxious language on telephone by unidentified callers and many of them have been murdered, kidnapped and harassed due to the non prevalent safety measures.


Despite the existence of high-visibility female journalists in Pakistan, gender barriers and gender-based discrimination in the Pakistan media persist. Every media organization ought to have – and faithfully implement – a clearly articulated code of conduct forbid gender-based discrimination.


When a crisis hits in that part of the country where the newsroom exixts, newsrooms may be crippled. But planning ahead can enable a news organization to keep broadcasting or publishing even if the newsroom is directly affected. Foremost thing is to back up everything. If the newsroom loses power, computers won’t work. Keep back up copies of computer files off site. Keep critically important information on paper and keep copies off site, as well. This includes contact information and the crisis management plan itself as it will greatly help in coping with the situation.

Importantly, work out an arrangement in advance to use the facilities of another newspaper for publication or another broadcast station to distribute TV or radio signals in case of emergency.


From the crisis reporting we can clearly evaluate that it can lead to problems in reporting. Due to the lack of facilities, trainings and compensation to the journalists it can result in several discrepancies in reporting during war zones and crisis areas.


Reporters we expect to provide objective facts – not simply tell us what we want to hear. Currently many of the Pakistani reporters are intentionally changing their reporting to cover up uncomfortable or unpopular facts, infact they are not really reporting at all as they are misleading the audiences.

If journalists are deliberately reporting what they think people want to hear rather than what the facts are, an information disorder and chaos results. Unfounded rumors and gossips becomes legitimized when they are repeated on media either on TV or in the newspapers, and then become even more ingrained.

It is imperative that journalists report the facts – even when these facts are uncomfortable. Otherwise, we will only be building on a foundation of error.


As Pakistanis we should now all be well versed with tragedy coverage. Bomb blasts, terrorist attacks, violent protests, military operations, natural disasters – you name it and we have seen it all. However, instead of making us more proficient at covering tragedies, the influx of crisis situations seem to have worked in reverse. For media personnel these situations are double disasters. The more serious the disaster is, the worse the situation in the newsroom becomes.

There is a way of addressing catastrophe, crisis and violence. And it is unfortunate that those who need to be the most sensitive at such times – the journalists, reporters and news agencies – end up being the most insensitive.

News reporting in Pakistan must move away from the sensational and overly-hyped. The media; both electronic and print must be devoted to more investigative forms of reporting. The media can play a pivotal and constructive role in reporting the crisis as it is and should essentially ignore the conspiracies and anecdotes that may exaggerate the crisis, and harm the people involved in it.


Breaking news or special report is a current event that broadcasters feel warrants the interruption of scheduled programming in order to report its details. Many times in Pakistani news channels, breaking news is used after the news network has already reported on this story. When a story has not been reported on previously, the phrase Breaking News is sometimes used its use is often loosely assigned to the most significant report of the moment or a story that is being covered live. It could be a story that is simply of wide interest to viewers and has little impact otherwise. TV channels of Pakistan often provide the oxygen of publicity to the extremist ideology and in a crazy competition for breaking news many channels report events without verifying and confirming the facts and often exaggerated the events and want to win the cat and rat race.



According to former Los Angeles Times editor John Carroll, narrative writing should not be confined to massive enterprise stories. “Any story should surprise and delight” – even a short police report.

Carroll says today’s news audience is bombarded by facts with no context, “We need to gratify the reader’s emotions and intelligence (to help them) makes sense o



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