Iraqi journalists on the difficulty of dispassionate reporting

Writing on the Dart Center for Journalism site, Tanya Paperny discusses the experiences of Iraqi journalists who visited the US last month to share their thoughts on reporting in areas of conflict.

The discussion brought up the common moral dilemma for journalists – how should you act when a person’s life is in danger in front of you? The journalists said the impact of this decision can have serious consequences for their own safety.

Another participant, who explained that he frequently has to cover bombings and suicide, talked about the kinds of scenarios in which a bystander would attack a journalist. It’s a dilemma many journalists face when they are the first to arrive at the scene of a traumatic incident: Should one take pictures and take notes for a story or help the victims? Should one wait for a health worker to do the first aid? Some participants argued that by putting down their cameras and notebooks, even if to help an injured individual, they are failing to fulfill their role as dispassionate witnesses. But there is no easy answer; each situation is different. And if the reporter chooses to take pictures and conduct interviews, that is the kind of situation that the Iraqi journalists explained could lead to harrassment by onlookers.

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