Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Media: Media's role in reporting on education and children in times of crisis

Source: United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF)

By Pi James

Every day, despite significant risks to their safety, journalists bring stories from disasters and conflict zones to people around the world. These stories can shape the international response to humanitarian emergencies, and ultimately impact the lives of children.

To commemorate World Press Freedom Day, 3 May, podcast moderator Amy Costello spoke with three journalism practitioners from three different continents, about the media's role in reporting on education and children in times of crisis. Listen to podcast

"Huge" role of media

In the podcast discussion, all guests agreed that the media's role is vital in bringing attention to deeper issues in conflict, such as education.

"I definitely think the role of the media is huge." says Colombian journalist Jenny Manrique. "We have to see through the media what the conflict is about, and how are people solving this conflict. This also helps to understand the problem."

Brendan O'Malley, journalist and author of UNESCO's 2010 Education Under Attack report, adds that journalism has been "hugely helpful" in exposing attacks on education institutions, teachers, and students around the world.

"Journalism often is the front line," says Mr. O'Malley, "it brings these issues to the world's attention and it does so through telling the human stories, and many journalists put themselves at great risk to go and get those stories…. They should be commended for that."

Digging deeper

Associate Professor Jake Lynch, Director of the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Sydney, argues that journalists often gloss over complex issues, describing the phenomenon of rebel villages on the conflict-ridden island of Mindanao in the Philippines.

"The most common denominator of rebel villages is that they have no school of their own," says Associate Professor Lynch. "Access to education therefore could be seen as a predictor of unrest and cycles of relative deprivation which lead to violence."

Mr. O'Malley agrees that too often journalists do not dig deeper: "In countries where schools are being attacked, the reporting seems to focus on the fact the school has been attacked, the fact that teachers have been killed and what is often overlooked is why those schools are being attacked," he says. "That is a shortcoming that I would like to see journalism across the board address."

Ms. Manrique says that "it's a matter of rethinking the exercise of journalism, [to see journalists] not just as mere observers, but also as human beings."

See also Sydney Irresistible and Mike Hitchen Unleashed
Putting principles before profits