conflict management mechanisms

Who is Afraid of Citizen Journalists?

Posted by LeighJaschke on Jul 15, 2009
Who is Afraid of Citizen Journalists? data sheet 3746 Views
Hattotuwa, Sanjana
Publication Date: 
Dec 2007
Publication Type: 

Large-scale disasters are growing. On the one hand, global warming and unprecedented
environmental change are resulting in disasters more frequent and calamitous than before.
Natural disasters such as earthquakes (Kashmir, 2005), floods (Bangladesh, India and
Nepal, 2007), landslides and mudslides (Bam, 2003; Chittagong, 2007), volcanic eruptions
(Merapi, 2006), tsunamis (South and Southeast Asia, 2005) and forest fires (across
Europe, 2007) continue to severely affect the lives and livelihoods of millions. On the other,
the iconic images of the London bombings (7 July 2006), the Twin Towers in New York on
11 September 2001, Madrid train bombs (2004) and the Bali bombings (2002 and 2005)
coupled with hundreds of gruesome local incidents -- including suicide bombings in coun-
tries such as Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Iraq -- are a stark reminder that man made disas-
ters, often the result of terrorism, are a permanent feature of domestic life in many coun-

But how do we make sense of such disasters -- their causes, their impact on those in-
volved as victims and perpetrators? How do we maintain compassion in a world with com-
peting human tragedies? Does the increasing availability and affordability of Information
and Communications Technologies (ICT) -- covering PCs, radio, mobile phones, blogs,
SMS and the Internet -- result in the coverage and awareness of disasters qualitatively bet-
ter than before? Or does reportage across a hundred thousand websites and blogs by
those who are untrained in professional journalism diminish the importance of and, by ex-
tension, the response towards a disaster?

There are no easy answers to these questions. Whether we like it or not, new technologies
are changing the manner in which we gather, store, disseminate, consume and comment
on news. The overall experience after the tsunami in Sri Lanka and the subsequent design
of ICTs for humanitarian aid suggests that ordinary citizens can play a pivotal role in facili-
tating the flow of information in relief and conflict management mechanisms.