Friday, January 16, 2015

Turkey notebook:
Obstacles hinder responsible refugee reporting
Adana, Turkey—As the first of two peace journalism seminars got underway here today, the operative question was this: What are the obstacles to professionally reporting about the 2.3 million Syrian refugees here in Turkey?

The first major obstacle is access to the refugee camps. There are two such camps within a two hour drive of Adana here in southern Turkey. My project partner, Dr. Nilufer Pembecioglu from the University of Istanbul, shared with the attendees the difficulties of getting multiple permissions from both national and local level officials. Apparently, running down the mayor for his signature is often the most difficult of these many steps. 

The participants, a mixed group of journalists, students, and a journalism professor, also noted that many obstacles come from the refugees themselves. These include interviewee fatigue (being tired of telling the same story to multiple reporters), fear of revealing their identity, and the common issue of asking to be paid for an interview. I wasn’t much help in this regard, since I have paid poor interviewees and felt guilty, and I’ve stuck to my journalistic principles and not paid, and also felt guilty.

The day closed with a discussion about my proposed guidelines for reporting about refugees and other displaced persons. We’ll discuss these guidelines, including considering the consequences of reporting, respecting refugees’ privacy, and not reinforcing stale stereotypes, during the second day of our seminar tomorrow. 

This seminar, and the one that follows next week, is sponsored by the U.S. Embassy in Ankara, Turkey.

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