‘Journalists Need Training To Cover Disasters Responsibly’ - Eastern Mirror
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‘Journalists need training to cover disasters responsibly’

By Reyivolü Rhakho Updated: May 06, 2022 1:59 am

They are the bridge that links the gap between the givers and takers

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Our Correspondent
Kohima, May 5 (EMN): The main challenge that many journalists face while covering a disaster is lack of knowledge about such calamities, said Major General MK Bindal, Former Executive Director, National Institute of Disaster Management.

He said this on Thursday during an online panel discussion on ‘Role of Media in Disaster Management’, organised by Sphere India in commemoration of World Press Freedom Day.

Citing his field experience, he said that many media persons who turn up to cover disaster had no clue about where to start, what they needed to do, and what they need to report. Sometimes, they wasted time going into a house trying to show what all damages had taken place, when they could have helped them, he added.

Stressing on the need for capacity building among journalists in regard to disaster-related reportage, he said training media persons on disaster management issues is important to make them responsible.

‘It has to become an inherent part of their curriculum, and in every media discourse, there should be a lecture on disaster no matter what the topic is. They have to learn the nuances of disaster management so that they can look for the right things, ask the right people and the right questions and give the right suggestions,’ said Bindal.

‘The role of a journalist is to help the public during disasters. They are the bridge that links the gap between the givers and takers,’ he added.

‘In the pre-disaster phase, the media should start drawing the attention of the people because it is not possible for any government to look into these matters 24×7. During disasters, the efforts should not be to show blurry images but give prescriptive reporting. The report should be to ensure that the affected people get the right relief whether in terms of rescue operations, evacuation operations, relief materials, and rehabilitation,’ he continued.

The executive director went on to say that disaster requires responsible and accountable reporting as well as commitment towards the welfare of the people.

Senior Editor, Political and Current Affairs, NDTV, Himanshu Shekhar Mishra also observed that three “critical” things should be considered if one wants media to become more effective as a disaster watchdog. The three phases are pre-disaster, disaster, and post-disaster.

‘The problem with Indian media, largely, is that the primary focus has been more on disaster incidents. But, there is a need for capacity building because disaster is a very complex subject,’ he said. 

He also stressed on ethical reportage.

‘A media person cannot just take their camera and go into a disaster zone and start broadcasting from there. The disaster zone is also a very disturbed psychological zone for the victims. The psychological trauma, the pain, and the sense of loss are very much acute. There is a need for empathy and sympathy for this entire situation,’ said Mishra.

He also said that the Covid-19 pandemic has been an extremely challenging time for journalists, which left hundreds succumbing to the virus. A lot of times, they were not trained to face such situations, wherein they have to take care of themselves as well as do their job, he added.

Vice-Chancellor of Makhanlal Chaturvedi National University of Journalism and Communication, Bhopal, Professor KG Suresh, said that reporters and correspondents are sent into different fields without proper training.

‘We have pushed them into different scenarios. What is happening is that a crime reporter is being pushed into a disaster scenario. This is because of the lack of research in media institutions,’ he said adding that ‘now is the new era of super specialisation’.

He said that media is an integral part of disaster response and there cannot be disaster management without media. In this digital era, there is a menace of infodemic, fake content, misinformation and disinformation, and that too in one go. Therefore, it calls for somebody competent in every disaster reporting, he added.

On responding and communicating when something tragic happens, he said one has to ensure that the report does not create panic or sensationalise the matter. This is because the trauma of the victim has to be taken into consideration, he said.

The professor also pointed out that Indian media is focusing on urban journalists when most of the disasters happen in rural areas, adding that correspondents and stringers from rural areas are not trained and therefore are unskilled.

Chief of Bureau, Governance Now magazine, Sweta Ranjan, said that even if journalists have degrees or diplomas in journalism, they are not trained. They get trained and learn only after going to the field. ‘We groom ourselves and teach ourselves from reporting incidents that happened,’ she said.

CEO and Editor-in-Chief of Indian Observer Post, Onkareshwar Pandey moderated the discussion. Other panelists included KA Shaji, Senior journalist, South India; and Deepak Parvatiyar, senior media personality.

By Reyivolü Rhakho Updated: May 06, 2022 1:59:23 am
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