In late April 2017, photojournalist Souvid Datta submitted a photograph of a trafficked child being raped in Kolkata, India, to a photography contest run by Magnum Photos, one of the most established agencies in the industry. They published it. This incident highlights a dilemma the media industry must navigate between reporting on important issues and helping those in need. It further shows the perverse logic that can encourage journalists to withhold assistance in desperate circumstances, and ignore concerns of privacy and dignity. These tensions and the incentive structures relating to them are especially difficult in these types of humanitarian settings where people can be extremely vulnerable and often experience particularly acute suffering.
One attempt to reduce this concern is to transform media personnel simultaneously into disaster responders, or include journalists formally in rapid response teams. Both of these collapse the divide between media and humanitarian worker and thus combine the imperatives of each: to give immediate assistance and to raise awareness with the goal of mobilising more help. This article considers the implications of this dual role of journalists as humanitarian responders as it has been realised by the Philippines. It describes the way this innovative combination of media reporter and aid worker appears to reduce the dilemma facing journalists. It then considers the criticism that this further entrenches the position of the powerful at the expense of the disempowered, arguing that this sadly is not a shortcoming unique to this novel arrangement. However, the commentary further argues that the reporter-aid worker combination ultimately diminishes overall scrutiny of aid organisations, in particular accountability towards those whom aid organisations seek to help.
Non-Traditional Security / NTS Insight / Southeast Asia and ASEAN
Last updated on 23/10/2018