The situation in Ukraine has generated new challenges for journalists: how and where they can find information to cover the events properly, how to check the information published online, which sites are credible, etc. The other concerns are related to the journalists themselves; their safety, the psychological and emotional pressure they are faced with during the crisis, especially in cases if they decide to go to the war and provide first-hand information.
All these issues were discussed during the online workshop organized by the Independent Journalism Center on March 4-5. The event was attended by approximately 30 journalists working for the press of the Republic of Moldova.
On the first day of the workshop, journalist Catalin Gombos, editor-in-chief of Veridica.ro portal in Romania, shared his experience of covering events in times of crisis and in the middle of war zones, as he had previously worked in Iraq and Afghanistan as a war correspondent.
“During wartime, there is an enormous flow of information, and it is very difficult to verify everything it brings. But even under such circumstances, we should be extremely careful and do at least minimal checks to make sure that the information is credible. Google search is the simplest tool in these conditions: in a few seconds, it allows finding whether a particular photo has been taken recently at the arena of war or in another time and in another place. Such basic checks allow avoiding unforgivable blunders which have already taken place in the context of the war in Ukraine,” the journalist said.
He mentions that citing the sources correctly and using cross-references for the information is very important. “No crisis can cancel deontology, ethics, the need to stay impartial, and the way we approach the subjects,” Catalin Gombos affirms.
Among other things, he recommends the journalists who report from the newsrooms to use such credible international media sources as CNN, BBC, Reuters, AFP, Financial Times, New York Times, Washington Post, Guardian, or France 24, many of which have on-site war correspondents and special fact-checking departments.
On the second day of the workshop, Lieutenant-Colonel Ianac Deli, deputy Commander of Brigade No 2, ex-commander of the 22nd Peacekeeping Battalion of the National Army of the Republic of Moldova, mentioned that, before traveling to the conflict zones, the journalists must make sure they know what exactly is happening there and be fully aware of the fact that the mission of providing on-the-spot news coverage is risk-bearing.
“While you are on the spot, you can witness the situations which will mark you for the rest of your life. You have to be prepared for this, both psychologically and physically,” the lieutenant colonel affirms.
The journalists were informed about the essentials they would need when going on such a mission, what they should be wearing, who they could address in an emergency, and how to provide first aid.
Lilia Munteanu, lieutenant-colonel, chief specialist at the Psychological Assistance Service of the National Army of the Republic of Moldova, mentions that, during the war, “being a journalist is a high-risk profession.”
“In such situations, mental training is paramount. You should always keep in mind that you have to return from the mission alive. No report is worth your life,” Lilia Munteanu says.
She described the techniques for coping with the situations of stress, and panic attacks.
The journalists attending the workshop admitted they did not have any experience in reporting about such a crisis related to security in the region, and the information and advice obtained would be of real use to them.
“I belong to the generation who knows about the war from textbooks and foreign news. It goes without saying we are totally unprepared to be citizens in wartime, let alone to be journalists. I have to admit my heart was in my throat throughout the workshop, but there is no use hiding from reality. I have made a list of all the recommendations, and I keep trying to get used to the thought that the things I wrote down might end up in my backpack soon,” Ana Gherciu from Moldova.org says.
“This workshop is part of the security plan every newsroom should develop continuously. Therefore, before reporters are sent to the field, especially the one located in a conflict zone, they must be issued proper protective equipment and trained how to act when all sorts of challenges emerge in the field,” journalist Iurie Sanduta from RISE Moldova affirms.
The training program was organized by the Independent Journalism Center as part of the “Media Enabling Democracy, Inclusion and Accountability in Moldova (MEDIA-M)” project funded by USAID and UK and implemented by Internews in Moldova.