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"Where there is no [media], there is no humanitarian intervention"

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  • George Lessard
    From: Frederick Noronha Subject: [ZESTMedia] Where there is no camera, there is no humanitarian intervention -- Bernard Kouchner,
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 21, 2007
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      From: "Frederick Noronha" <fred@...>
      Subject: [ZESTMedia] "Where there is no camera, there is no humanitarian
      intervention" -- Bernard Kouchner, co-founder MSF

      FULL REPORT at http://www.tveap.org/disastercomm/

      "Where there is no camera, there is no humanitarian
      intervention," said Bernard Kouchner, co-founder of Medecins
      Sans Frontieres -- and many of today's disaster managers and
      relief agencies would agree.

      Yet, the relationship between media practitioners and those
      managing disasters can often be stressful, difficult and
      fraught with misunderstandings.

      Communicating about disasters sometimes ends up as
      communications disasters. How can these mishaps be minimised,
      so that the power of established and new forms of mass media
      can play a more meaningful role in managing both hazards and

      This was the broad question addressed during a regional
      brainstorming meeting in Bangkok, Thailand, held on the eve
      of the Indian Ocean Tsunami's second anniversary, i.e. 21-22
      December 2006.

      Organised by TVE Asia Pacific and UNDP, the meeting brought
      together over 30 leading media professionals, disaster
      managers and communication specialists from South and
      Southeast Asia.

      Early on, it became apparent that both the media
      practitioners and disaster/development professionals had very
      different attitudes and approaches to managing information
      before, during and after disasters. Some of the differences
      arose from a failure to appreciate the different needs and
      priorities of these two groups.

      But this division became less sharp as the two groups agreed
      on the essential functions of information and communication,
      and the need to serve the public interest over individual,
      corporate or agency interests.

      The meeting recognised that the media must evolve its own
      ethics, guidelines and strategies for covering hazards and
      disasters, and these cannot be imposed from outside. At the
      same time, all participants agreed on the value of greater
      understanding and cooperation between media practitioners,
      development professionals and disaster managers.

      Participants of the meeting formed a Yahoo group to support
      future networking and to sustain information sharing. See
      http://groups.yahoo.com/group/communicating-disaster/ An Asia
      Pacific Resource Book planned for 2007 will combine the
      meeting's highlights with contributions from leading media
      and disaster professionals in Asia.

      * * * * *

      Suggested guidelines for more effective engagement of mass
      media and new media before, during and after disasters

      These guidelines were drafted by the meeting participants,
      working in three parallel groups during the morning of Day Two.

      Before a disaster strikes (hazard phase) Guidelines for media
      organisations, and also government/developmental organisations:
      * Investigative reports are needed; on issues like
      institutional readiness.
      * Pre-disaster work needs to start years before disaster, not
      minutes before.
      * Need for credible government agencies tackling such issues.
      * Institutional, developmental and academic institutions need
      to provide media with easy-to-digest information.
      * Non -media institutions need to assist media in covering
      slow-moving stories, and to provide the 'human face' to what
      could otherwise be just dry stories.
      * Fill in the 'resource gap'. Recognise logistical
      limitations of the media, with support from institutions for
      exposure visits and the like.
      * Developmental organisations and institutions should make
      efforts to understand the diversity of the media. This means,
      diverse sections of the media need to be dealt with in
      differing ways.
      * State of preparedness needed to be created among media
      * Reach out to a greater variety of the media, and also the
      traditional media
      * Institutions could make available B-roll footage available
      to the media, exploit existing networks such as the UNiFeed,
      http://www.un.org/unifeed/. Online photo libraries could also
      help to build awareness in the media. Institutions (working
      on disaster issues) should consider starting blogs.
      * Local languages need to be deployed in media campaigns.
      * Editors should be encouraged to have a 'disaster beat'
      * Preparedness is a cultural value. It needs to be built upon.

      During an unfolding disaster and immediately afterwards
      (first two weeks)
      * It's not possible nor realistic to compile a rigid list of
      do's and don'ts.
      * This phase of the disaster, in most cases, involves a
      window of two weeks from the time a disaster breaks.
      * Focus on the 'immediate' media -- newspapers, TV, radio,
      web, cell phone. (Theatre, music, etc., may not be relevant
      at this point of time.)
      * Work actively to bridge the mismatch between victims'
      needs and relief agencies' interest/focus.
      * Let media have access to all information and sites,
      without restriction. Don't prevent journalists from reaching
      the disaster and other relevant sites.
      * Encourage active participation of affected parties in the
      information and communication processes.
      * Rather than preparing any more manuals or guidelines for
      media, what is needed is training, reorientation and
      sensitising for developmental agencies.
      * Media needs to considered and build (based on
      spot-reporting), a central desk, expert panel and other
      suitable forms to better cover an unfolding disaster situation .
      * The goal is to spread information effectively, and provide
      expression to the people affected.
      * Media should be treated as (those generating information
      for) part of the public domain, and a space for complementing
      * Guidelines: Encourage and support all forms of narratives,
      and visuals.
      * Guidelines: Be sensitive. There can be a difference
      between showing bodies and gore.
      * Guidelines: Don't be offensive.
      * Guidelines: Be effective.
      * Guidelines: Training needed for the authorities, donors,
      agencies to understand journalism and how media organisations
      * Bridge the mismatch between information available and
      * Assessment should start from the ground up.
      * Let media have access to real information.
      * New media (including TV) requirement: good 'sound bytes'.
      * Media needs to adopt an antagonistic position, based on
      its logic of operations.
      * Idea is to make those in power more accountable, less cosy
      After a disaster: long-term recovery
      * Taking care of physical needs without overlooking mental
      disorders, stress, psychosomatic issues that are not often
      * Factors that exacerbate e the problem need to be focused
      on: ethnic tensions, regional divisions, etc.
      * Issues of gender need to be considered: especially concerns
      such as redefining women's role in the family after a
      * Make available "cultural" emergency relief, as well as
      recovery support
      * Disaster beat is recommended, the media should work to
      keep post-disaster issues in the news.
      * Media should focus on both immediate aftermath and
      long-term effects.
      * Be aware about possible mismatch between aid available,
      and the community needs.
      * Media coverage needs to extend beyond the status quo in
      society (e.g. male control of households and assets).
      * New media can play a special role in bypassing the
      * Media has a role in 're-energising' the community during
      recovery phase.
      * Media also has a role to play in sharing relevant stories
      with the community.
      FN M: 0091 9822122436 P: +91-832-240-9490 (after 1300IST please)
      http://fn.goa-india.org http://fredericknoronha.wordpress.com
      7500+ sharable pics from Goa http://www.flickr.com/photos/fn-goa/

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