Media and conflict

Challenging environment

Conflict areas are a challenging and threatening environment for media and journalists. The warring parties often try to obstruct the work of independent journalists. The hostile attitude of many authorities towards the media could impact the production of independent reporting by seeking to influence insiders in media organisations through bribe or provision of false information. At times media are censored, or intimidation leads to self-censorship. Besides physical security risks like harassment and detention, there is also digital insecurity. Journalists are often not able to use the appropriate safe tools and platforms, which could lead to exposure of private data of themselves or their sources.  
 

Neutral party

In a situation of conflict, the media can be a neutral party that provides context and impartial information. Where there is a lack of independent media, citizens are dependent on divisive narratives or propaganda. Media can be used to spread false information or rumors and can create tension between warring parties and other stakeholders in the conflict. Therefore, particularly in conflict areas, Free Press Unlimited aims to ensure that (citizen) journalists are aware of, and dedicated to ethical and professional journalistic standards. There is a focus on media in the role of peacebuilder, with the task of providing a platform for dialogue.


 

Listening to the radio in Sudan
Listening to the radio in Sudan to keep up with the latest news. Photo: Hildebrand


 

What we do

Free Press Unlimited works in countries where there are (armed) conflicts, for example DRC Congo, the Kurdistan region in Iraq, Syria, and the Sudans. It is our aim to ensure that media organisations and journalists in those countries provide accurate, balanced, timely and relevant information to audiences. This way, citizens can make informed decisions about their own future and about the development of their society, and a dialogue is started, which often leads to greater mutual understanding. 

For this we work on strengthening professional journalism, but we also provide practical solutions to keep media organisations operational. For example in the Central African Republic, where there are regular conflicts between Christians and the Muslim minority, we re-established radio stations that were looted, and support them that take on the role of connector between these groups by creating a place for dialogue.

 

Satellite radio station in Central African Republic
Satellite radio station in Central African Republic. Photo: Jeppe Schilder.


Offering shelter

It can be extremely tiring and stressful to work as a journalist in a repressive environment. They face threats and obstruction in their work on a daily basis. To maintain a good (mental) health, it can be very helpful to pull away form that pressuring environment for a while. For this, Free Press Unlimited has supported shelter cities with advice and mediation. Shelter cities are places where journalists can go to catch their breath. For example, Costa Rica, that ranks the 5th place on the Press Freedom Index, is a safe haven in Central America. Journalists from the far more repressive, neighbouring country Nicaragua can temporarily stay and work in a shelter city in Costa Rica to have some relief.
 

Media in exile

If it is impossible for independent media to report from their own country, Free Press Unlimited sometimes facilitates reporting from exile, like for example Radio Tamazuj. It became impossible for them to report from their country South Sudan, so they relocated to another African country with support from Free Press Unlimited. Now they can continue to be an important source of reliable information about the situation in South Sudan. Free Press Unlimited also works on keeping independent media operational by ensuring they have access to tools that give (digital) protection, and possess the required equipment and distribution channels to provide people with information.

Another great example is our work in war-torn Syria, with the Ethical Charter for Syrian Media (ECSM), a Syrian association that aims to empower the few Syrian media organisations that are still operating to practice the profession of media ethically and professionally. The Charter’s effects are visible already: reports by the associated press agencies, newspapers, radio broadcasters and news sites have become more reliable, independent and critical. This is crucial to be able to make any sense of the complex situation in Syria.

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