War reporters today face a significant number of challenges in the field, including dangers to personal security and meeting their basic physical needs as well as operating within an extremely complex information environment. To address some of these issues Aristotle University Thessaloniki (AUTh), through its Peace Journalism Lab (PJL), has been offering a training project on field safety in war zones for journalists.
The Peace Journalism Lab’s overall objective is to promote awareness among young people about the globalized information and communication society through research, while this specific program aims to provide journalists with the necessary knowledge to cope with the challenges they are likely to face in the contemporary field of conflict.
The participants discuss several issues, including challenges to reporting on war and crises; the evolving nature of war reporting; the law of armed conflict; field safety; data security; and health, epidemics and stress management. Over 40 journalists participated in the first training session held in November 2019, and the second session is scheduled to take place later in 2020.
The training has been a unique opportunity for the participants to benefit from the organizers’ experience in war journalism and risk communication combined with the expertise of military professionals. The program is structured around keynote presentations by distinguished experts, roundtable discussions and field training. The course runs with a mixed method teaching style of lectures as well as hands-on courses.
The PJL also integrated core components of international human rights law and the promotion of peace journalism into its training objectives. Peace journalism is considered an alternative to war coverage and seeks to use journalism to advance conflict resolution with an emphasis on how the reporting of war and violence can be made more accurate and more useful by seeking the roots of conflict and highlighting possible solutions.
The safety of journalists is one of the cornerstones of freedom of expression, and training of journalists has been included in UNESCO’s Plan of Action, Work Plan, and the UNESCO Model Curricula for Journalism Education, which has a dedicated chapter on journalist safety.