Journalist Jaldeep Katwala offers 10 tips on how to cover stories in conflict zones. Katwala, who has covered conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, says that reporting on conflict and abuse is complex and that the way facts are revealed often does not provide the level of understanding the situation demands. His advice:
1: Don’t write in clichés
‘The Heart of Darkness’ is the title of a good book by Joseph Conrad written in the early part of the twentieth century about a trip up the River Congo. It does not need to feature in every single story about the Congo and especially not in the headline.
2: Don’t believe everything someone tells you
International NGO’s by definition are on the side of the victim, the underdog. They are keen to generate interest in their perspective. They have a story to tell. Often that story is shocking in its own right without the extra tug of emotion, the extra twist given by the NGO’s. Remember this especially when you’re dealing in second-hand accounts of what eye-witnesses said.
3: Don’t hunt for the 'definitive truth'
The truth is out there, but it’s incredibly hard to find it. Take the Democratic Republic of Congo, for example. It is a huge country – bigger than Britain, France, Germany, Spain, Italy and Poland combined. As a journalist, unless you’ve experienced the situation first hand, you’ll have to rely on what someone else tells you. Do so with caution.
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