Seminar on the ethics of war journalism: today more relevant than ever
On the first day of the 30-day period of martial law in Vinnytsia, the Academy of Ukrainian Press together with the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom organized a two-day seminar for young journalists on ethical standards for journalism in armed conflicts. The goal of the seminar was to teach students of journalism about to which ethical standards a journalist should adhere whilst working in a conflict zone. As participants to the seminar had to pass a military checkpoint on their way to the venue, the seminar was now more relevant than ever.
The media experts present at the event were president of the Academy of Ukrainian Press Valerii Ivanov, founder of the Journalistic Ethics Commission and founder of the newspaper “Dzerkalo Tyzhnia” Volodymyr Mostoviy and Polish war journalist Petr Andrusechko. The soon-to-be journalists were taught not to film wounded or dying civilians without blurring their face, for it is unacceptable for a family to discover the death of relatives via the news. Furthermore, the experts explained that it is unethical to post selfies with Kalashnikovs on social media, for a journalist has to show that he or she is non-combatant.
The students were very interested in the topic, and had many questions for the experts. One of the students wondered what to call “the other side” of the war. Should they call them Pro-Russian rebels, terrorists or separatists? The experts responded that it is important to stay neutral as a journalist, and especially not to de-humanize anyone by calling them for example “cockroaches” or “dogs”. As a Ukrainian war journalist reporting from the Donbas, reporting in a neutral way can sometimes be difficult. It can for example be a dilemma to report on wrongdoings by Ukrainian soldiers, for the article you would write about such an event will surely be used against Ukraine by the Russian propaganda machine. The experts however stressed that a war journalist must first think of his or her job, and then of his or her citizenship. One must ask themselves “is this newsworthy?” and if it is, one must report about it. Valerii Ivanov stated that professionalism equals patriotism, and that not reporting the truth cannot be considered as patriotic. Overall, the seminar was incredibly informative, and the students sure had learned a lot.