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Conflict reporting in the 21st century: summary report

On Saturday 8th February 2020, AOAV convened a one-day conference at Birkbeck College and in partnership with the Frontline Club. It aimed at interrogating how journalists can hold perpetrators to account for civilian harm, assessing the changing nature of journalism in conflict reporting, and debating the new techniques available to journalists to do this.

Public awareness of the harm caused by explosive weapons depends, in large part, on how it is reported in the media. It is thus of vital importance to assess how these incidents are reported and to encourage the next generation of conflict reporters to report on issues such as air-strikes fairly and accurately.

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It involved around 300 participants from across the world, including journalists, students, civil society actors and academics. The day included a keynote speech, two breakout sessions for workshops, and three main panels — each panel was led by a moderator and featured three participants.

The keynote speech was given by veteran reporter Janine di Giovanni, and provided an overview of the changing nature of conflict reporting, emphasising the importance of journalists holding governments accountable.

Session 2 looked at how journalists can tell the stories of civilians. It examined the complex ethics of this reporting, and the relationship between the journalist and their subject.

Session 3 focused on the new tools and techniques available to conflict reporters, especially open source investigations, scrutinising how these developments work alongside field investigations and their role in assessing civilian casualties, with a focus on air strikes.

Session 4 provided an opportunity to discuss the increased numbers of freelancers in conflict reporting. It looked at the financial and physical security issues facing freelancers and the responsibilities of news organisations and NGOs towards them.

There were also two breakout sessions, one before and one after lunch, which provided participants the opportunity to learn practical skills from our experts, including weapon identification and first aid.

To read the summary report, please click here.