Can journalism be deadly?
Ask the family of Sadou Yehia, a Malian man interviewed by the France 24 network and subsequently murdered last month by militants. The interview, conducted in December, was part of a package about French troops operating in the region.
The journalists protected the French soldiers by anonymising their names and obscuring their faces. They did not offer Yehia the same considerations.
Yehia denounced terrorists on air, his face clearly recognisable. Perhaps he was not thinking of the consequences. His family says the terrorists arrived shortly after the programme aired, shot Yehia twice, then threatened the entire village as he lay dying. They issued an ultimatum, ordering Yehia’s family to leave the village within a month.
Yehia’s words cost him his life, and his neighbours were collectively punished.
Did a producer or reporter warn Yehia about when the report would air? Did they tell him that it might be risky? Would he still have done it?
I teach a course in journalism at Yale University. In the first seminar I hold, I tell my students that they must do no harm. They must put their subject first, make them feel safe and keep them safe. For civilians during wartime, or victims of sexual abuse, it is particularly important not to re-traumatise them.
I have worked as a field reporter for nearly three decades. In that time, I have made huge mistakes and wrestled with questions of moral responsibility when pressured by sometimes-overzealous news editors, so I do understand how fast-paced journalism can blur critical thinking. Nevertheless, it should not. Because journalism is often a matter of life and death.
I am also a board member of the Institute of War and Peace Reporting, which promotes local journalism. Of primary concern for us is not only the safety of our reporters, but also their sources and contacts.
With the rise of global terrorism and the 24-hour news cycle, should there not be an institutionalised, universal and systematic policy of aftercare for subjects in dangerous places?
Back in December 2001, during the hunt for Osama bin Laden in Tora Bora, Afghanistan, I watched as a group of men accused of being Taliban fighters were brought out of a hidden cave by commanders from the Northern Alliance, a federation of anti-Taliban Afghan fighters.
The men were dragged forward, bedraggled and bewildered. Most of them were very young – teenaged or younger. They were not fighters, but cooks, cleaners and delivery boys.
The international press corps that had gathered in Afghanistan in the wake of 9/11, however, was ecstatic. Photographers surrounded the group and shoved their cameras in the boys’ faces, hoping for a sound bite.
In that moment, I was ashamed to be a journalist. I quietly made my way to the Afghan commander in charge and told him parading prisoners of war in front of a pack of reporters baying for their blood was a violation of the Geneva Convention.
“Shut up,” said the camera operator of one famous American journalist. He had overheard me grumbling and said I threatened their evening news report.
On another occasion, I showed my students a BBC 3 documentary report in which the presenter repeatedly harasses a young ISIS prisoner.
Most worrying to me – and to human rights lawyers who contacted me – the prisoner had no legal representation nor a translator. The presenter played to the camera, dramatically repeating: “How many women, how many children have you raped?” and “Tell me what you are thinking when these girls are screaming?”
Worse, the presenter brought in a Yazidi rape victim and paraded her in front of the ISIS captive.
This is deeply worrying for me. Academics and other professions are bound by codes of ethics, with considerable legal or career consequences for violating them. Journalists should operate similarly.
But in an era of budget crunches, where more journalists are sent to dangerous assignments without training, very few of them are taught any rules. I do not blame the BBC 3 presenter for her actions as much as I blame her producers and bosses, who think of ratings rather than ethics.
By virtue of their jobs, journalists crash into people’s lives, into humanitarian catastrophes, into family dramas, into war or misery, get the story and leave. We leave the people behind with their same suffering, but we get a story or a film.
It can leave a far reaching, painful legacy.
A study carried out in the aftermath of attacks on Yazidis by ISIS in 2014 showed that many of the subjects were deeply disturbed by their treatment by journalists. One human rights lawyer in residence at American University conducted 90 interviews with Yazidi women about their interactions with the international media.
The findings were staggering: 85 per cent of the women reported that journalists engaged in unethical practices, often pressuring them to speak or failing to protect their privacy adequately.
I learnt long ago that a good story could destroy someone’s life.
During the war in Kosovo, while working on a three-month investigation into mass rape in the country during the Nato bombing campaign, I wrote about a woman who was raped and brutalised by local men.
Although I changed her name, the article was illegally taken from my newspaper, translated and published in Kosovo. Because an incident I described was recognisable – the woman had been involved in a bombing in a café where nearly everyone but her was killed – local people understood immediately who she was.
Although she forgave me because she understood the circumstances – I never really forgave myself.
She was a young woman I had exposed and failed to protect. She had trusted me, and I had hurt her.
It was a most brutal lesson to learn.
The Author Janine di Giovanni is a senior fellow at Yale University’s Jackson Institute for Global Affairs and the author of The Morning They Came for Us: Dispatches from Syria
Rwanda Police Chief Briefs 240 Officers Ahead Of S. Sudan Deployment
The Inspector General of Police (IGP) Dan Munyuza, on Tuesday, March 9, briefed 240 police officers set to be deployed for peacekeeping duties under the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS).
The pre-deployment briefing of the hybrid Formed Police Unit-One (FPU-1) contingent was held at the Rwanda National Police (RNP) General Headquarters in Kacyiru.
The contingent commanded by Chief Superintendent of Police (CSP) Faustin Kalimba, will replaced the same number in Malakal, Upper Nile State where they will be largely charged with protection of civilians in internally displaced camps, UN personnel, security of key installations and humanitarian assistance, among others.
IGP Munyuza urged the officers to use their experience and the high level of training acquired to execute their peacekeeping mandate effectively.
He further reminded them that they will work with other peacekeepers from different countries and they will have to exercise respect of diversity.
“Learning will be continuous throughout your tour-of-duty, use your experience to build on what your predecessors achieved, cooperative with other peacekeepers in the mission area and respect the people under your protection as well as their culture,” IGP Munyuza emphasized.
He urged them to keep up the good conduct and protect the image set by previous contingents adding that ” you are representing your country, be at the best of your performance.”
“Your country and Rwanda National Police in particular, have full trust in you, resilience and sacrifice are key. Remember, your conduct and professionalism will depict the image and values of Rwandans, ensure your performance is exceptionally good and maintain the same spirit to the end of your mission,” said IGP Munyuza.
The Police Chief reminded them that Rwandan peacekeepers are defined by their professionalism, discipline, teamwork, integrity, values and alertness, and urged them to keep the momentum to “maintain and protect the image and reputation.”
He emphasized that respecting each other and their superiors in particular, discipline, hard work, teamwork, dignity and respect for diversity are strong guiding values and principles which will help them towards mission excellence.
IGP Munyuza appealed to the officers to maintain the spirit of supporting others and to engage in human security activities with the local people they are mandated to serve.
‘’Participating in human security activities is our culture as Rwandans, you should not only conduct peacekeeping duties just to maintain peace and security. It goes beyond that as our tradition to work towards the overall wellbeing of the people,” IGP Munyuza said.
As the wolrd is still faced with the pandemic of COVID-19, the Police Chief reminded them to always observe all health guidelines including wearing face masks, avoiding shaking hands, washing hands and practicing social distancing, among others.
This will be the sixth rotation of FPU-1 hybrid since the first one was deployed in South Sudan in 2015.
It is also one of the three Rwandan FPU contingents currently deployed in South Sudan.
Currently, RNP maintains over 1000 police peacekeepers in various UN missions, including six contingents serving in UNMISS and the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA).
Chinese Companies Win Tender to Construct Railway From Mwanza to Isaka
The Standard Gauge Railway from Mwanza to Isaka in neighbouring Tanzania will be constructed by two Chinese Companies that have won a lucrative tender for this job.
Prof. Palamagamba Kabudi Tanzania’s foreign minister said on Thursday during a presser on the eve of the Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi’s two-day visit to Tanzania.
The Mwanza-Isaka railway stretch will cover a distance of 341 kilometres and construction is estimated to cost TShs3 trillion will be handled by China Civil Engineering Construction (CCEC) and China Railway Construction Company (CRCC).
The Tanzanian government through the Tanzania Railway Corporation (TRC) is constructing a 2,561Km SGR network that links Dar es Salaam, Mwanza, Kigoma, Katavi and neighboring countries of Rwanda, Burundi Uganda and DRC.
The over Sh7 trillion project is being implemented in phases with the first round covering 202km between Dar es Salaam and Morogoro, was initially scheduled to be ready by November 2020 but heavy rains disrupted construction works.
Construction of the first and the second phase is being undertaken by Turkish construction company, Yapi Markez.
The first phase will have six main stations at Dar es Salaam, Pugu, Soga, Ruvu, Ngerengere and Morogoro, with the Dar es Salaam and Morogoro stations being the largest.
The second phase which is under implementation involves 422km between Morogoro and Makutupora in Singida with the project set to be completed within 36 months at a cost of $1,924 billion.
The railway is East Africa’s fastest and will use electricity to move trains will travel at 160km per hour and transport 10,000 tonnes of freight which is equivalent to 500 cargo trucks.
Upon completion, the SGR project is expected to payback the investment value after 15 years.
In October 2020, Tanzania government signed $60 million (about Sh138 billion) contract with a South Korean firm to supply trains for the standard gauge railway (SGR).
Trump Attacks Election Integrity As Biden Nears 270 Electoral College Votes
President Donald Trump is testing how far he can go in using the trappings of presidential power to undermine confidence in this week’s election against Joe Biden, as the Democrat contender gained ground in tight contests in some key battleground states.
With his pathway to re-election appearing to shrink, Trump has advanced unsupported accusations of voter fraud to falsely argue that his rival was trying to seize power. Thursday’s moves amounted to an extraordinary effort by a sitting American president to sow doubt about the democratic process.
“This is a case when they are trying to steal an election, they are trying to rig an election,” Trump said from the podium of the White House briefing room.
The president’s remarks deepened a sense of anxiety in the U.S. as Americans enter their third full day after the election without knowing who would serve as president for the next four years.
His statements also prompted a rebuke from some Republicans, particularly those looking to steer the party in a different direction in a post-Trump era.
Electoral college magic number
Neither candidate has reached the 270 Electoral College votes needed to win the White House. But Biden eclipsed Trump in Wisconsin and Michigan, two crucial Midwestern battleground states, and has been inching closer to overtaking the president in Pennsylvania and Georgia, where votes are still being counted. It remains unclear when a national winner will be declared after a long, bitter campaign dominated by the coronavirus and its effects on Americans and the national economy.
On Wednesday, The U.S.set another record for daily confirmed cases as several states posted all-time highs. The pandemic has killed more than 233,000 people in the United States.
Biden spent Thursday trying to ease tensions and project a more traditional image of presidential leadership. After participating in a coronavirus briefing, he declared that “each ballot must be counted.”
“I ask everyone to stay calm. The process is working,” Biden said. “It is the will of the voters. No one, not anyone else who chooses the president of the United States of America.”
Biden’s victories in the upper Midwest put him in a strong position, but Trump showed no sign of giving up. It could take several more days for the vote count to conclude and a clear winner to emerge. With millions of ballots yet to be tabulated, Biden already had received more than 73 million votes, the most in history.
Trump’s erroneous claims about the integrity of the election challenged Republicans now faced with the choice of whether to break with a president who, though his grip on his office grew tenuous, commanded sky-high approval ratings from rank-and-file members of the GOP.
Lawsuits and late mail-in ballots
Trump’s campaign engaged in a flurry of legal activity to try to improve the Republican president’s chances, requesting a recount in Wisconsin and filing lawsuits in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Georgia. Judges in Georgia and Michigan quickly dismissed Trump campaign lawsuits there on Thursday.
Trump has held a small edge in Georgia, though Biden has been gaining on him as votes continue to be counted. The same is true in Pennsylvania, where Trump’s lead had slipped to about 22,000 votes — and the race is destined to get tighter.
One reason is because elections officials were not allowed to process mail-in ballots until Election Day under state law. It’s a form of voting that has skewed heavily in Biden’s favour after Trump spent months claiming without proof that voting by mail would lead to widespread voter fraud.
Mail ballots from across the state were overwhelmingly breaking in Biden’s direction. A final vote total may not be clear for days because the use of mail-in ballots, which take more time to process, has surged as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Trump campaign said it was confident the president would ultimately pull out a victory in Arizona, where votes were also still being counted, including in Maricopa County, the state’s most populous area.
The AP has declared Biden the winner in Arizona and said Thursday that it was monitoring the vote count as it proceeded.
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