"Where there is no [media], there is no humanitarian intervention"
- 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
Organised by TVE Asia Pacific and UNDP, the meeting brought
together over 30 leading media professionals, disaster
managers and communication specialists from South and
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
* Pre-disaster work needs to start years before disaster, not
* 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
* State of preparedness needed to be created among media
* Reach out to a greater variety of the media, and also the
* 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,
* 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
* Disaster beat is recommended, the media should work to
keep post-disaster issues in the news.
* Media should focus on both immediate aftermath and
* 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
* Media also has a role to play in sharing relevant stories
with the community.
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