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Who's Reporting Africa Now?

Non-Governmental Organizations, Journalists, and Multimedia

Kate Wright

As news organizations cut correspondent posts and foreign bureaux, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have begun to expand into news reporting. Why and how do journalists use the photographs, video, and audio that NGOs produce? What effects does this have on the kinds of stories told about Africa? And how have these developments changed the nature of journalism and NGO-work?

Who’s Reporting Africa Now?: Non-Governmental Organizations, Journalists, and Multimedia is the first book to address these questions—using frank interviews and internal documents to shed light on the workings of major news organizations and NGOs, collaborating with one another in specific news production processes. These contrasting case studies are used to illuminate the complex moral and political economies underpinning such journalism, involving not only NGO press officers and journalists but also field workers, freelancers, private foundations, social media participants, businesspeople, and advertising executives.

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Chapter 5. War Crimes, Witnessing, and Public Service Television: Channel 4 News and Human Rights Watch




Channel 4 News and Human Rights Watch

When journalists testified in the international tribunals which followed the bloody conflicts in Bosnia and Rwanda, it threw into question long-held convictions about the merits of journalistic “objectivity” in the U.S. and Europe (Tumber 2008). Journalists acting as witnesses for the prosecution of war crimes and genocide were viewed as particularly problematic within Public Service Broadcasting, because of such news organizations’ statutory obligations regarding impartiality. Lindsey Hilsum, who is now the International Editor for Channel 4 News, but who was then a freelancer at BBC World Service Radio, acted as a witness at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. She argued that testifying about the mass killings of Tutsis might have compromised her role as a journalist, but that she had a greater responsibility “as a human being” to help prosecute those who ordered the killings (cited in Gjelten 1998, 18). Meanwhile, Tom Gjelten, a correspondent at the US-based National Public Radio (1998), tried to resolve the conflict between his statutory obligations and his moral and political responsibilities by differentiating between journalistic “objectivity” and political “impartiality.”

But the response given by the BBC’s foreign correspondent, Martin Bell (1997) is perhaps the most famous. He wrote an article, defending a “journalism of attachment” (1997, 7), which “cares as well as knows” and “will not←125 | 126→ stand neutrally between good and evil, right and wrong” (1997, 8). But...

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