When the News Becomes a Nightmare
The task of journalism is not to have the answers, but rather to be an honest witness.
The first casualty of war is not the truth – it is civilians. In this modern epoch of conflict, and despite a century of international humanitarian law, attacks on civilians – explicit or collateral – continue to brutalise non-combatants in ways which are hard to fathom.
“Facts and logic take a distant back seat to emotion and identity.”
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has deep antecedents, with irreconcilable histories and blame for all sides. Facts and logic take a distant back seat to emotion and identity, a situation explosively exacerbated by industrial-scale disinformation, all driven by a lawless social-media landscape designed to convert hatred and anger into profit.
In this context, truth does not matter, complexity is rejected, uncertainty is denied.
Logical solutions are made scarce. The whole point is to divide and instigate. Meantime fury - blind fury - reigns. And civilians continue to suffer. There has also been a heavy toll on journalists working in immeasurably difficult conditions on the ground – at least 24 media workers have already been killed. In this Spotlight report, we present voices and perspectives from the region and further afield; these do not represent IWPR's views as an organisation.
The task of journalism is not to have the (political) answers, but rather to be an honest witness. To pose questions based on facts that have been determined as responsibly, ethically and earnestly as they can be.
Or it may mean acknowledging that they cannot be. As Bellingcat founder Eliot Higgins explains in this special IWPR package on the conflict, no one can yet confirm who was responsible for the explosion at Gaza’s al-Ahli Arab Hospital, and it may be that we will never know conclusively.
“The very fact of consuming news can make us all protagonists.”
Yet now the news has become a nightmare – both because the suffering it shows is horrendous and because its partisan and disinforming nature only adds to the conflict. The very fact of consuming news can make us all protagonists, forcing us to take “sides”.
In this torrential fog of war, information must be handled responsibly and journalists must ensure that news informs, rather than further fuelling anger.
Civilians and the truth are both casualties of this, and all, conflicts. Aligning the two – bearing witness to the suffering of all civilians, on all sides – is the first essential answer journalism must struggle to provide.