Media during times of conflict [Archives:2008/1210/Viewpoint]

November 24 2008

Journalism is a profession with many scopes and responsibilities. We affect politics yet we are not politicians, we work with the communities yet we are not a civil society organization, we make money yet we are more than just a business, and so on. Perhaps this is why it is very important that a country's media is active and responsible, because it has a say in the shaping the future of the nation.

During times of conflict, the role of media is even more important because it is a main source of information that can push decision makers to be inclined one way rather than the other. And this is precisely why media is equally important during disasters, such as the one that recently occurred in three of our governorates on the east coast of Yemen.

To record events as they happen, to document relief and humanitarian aid, to represent minorities or neglected communities and push their integration into development plans and, most importantly, to hold both the authority and civil society accountable, especially when there is money in the picture.

During times of conflict, we have to help the various sides do their job better and give them community support through forming public opinion. Because the media is very powerful, whom we acknowledge and how we highlight their efforts and achievements in our reporting is extremely important. Even in the most independent of media, there is no absolute objectivity. Simply by choosing to cover this event or to interview that person, we make a decision based on personal or organizational inclination. Therefore it is crucial that the media conduct adequate research before contributing to the situation, and not feel reluctant to rectify a mistake if it happens to clarify the facts for readers. This is also why, in countries with professional media, its coverage can be used in law suits or detective work.

We, Yemeni journalists, know our value and understand the consequences of our reporting. We take pride in our work and hope that we too can serve our country in the way it needs to be served.