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Conference: Journalists and Commanders, Reporting in times of war, tensions and crises

March 1, 2016 @ 10:30 am - 3:30 pm

Gathering practitioners and experts in the field, this workshop examines the relationship between journalists and the military at times of war, peace-building operations, crisis-management and terrorism. It discusses the organisational and logistical challenges as well as the moral and ethical implications of working together. At times of war and crisis, concerns about the safety of all people involved merge with the need to ensure that the information gathered is reliable and accurate. At the same time, the details passed on to the media must not jeopardise action in the field, undermine national security or affect action on the ground.

Using examples drawn from the 20th and 21st century, the participants examine key questions:

  • What are strategic, logistic and ethical considerations used to decide the priority between accurate reporting, military strategy and action on the ground?
  • Is it a matter of cooperation, collaboration or competition?
  • What are the long-term implications of such close working relations for both sides?
  • What is the risk for journalists to become tools in the hands of the military?
  • How often does reporting action mean losing sight of context and cultural understanding?

The workshop is organised to leave ample room for debate and for the exchange of ideas with all participants. Postgraduate students are particularly welcome.

Course Date

1st March 2016

Places Available


Course Fee

Course Description
Registration fee: £25.00

Register by Monday, 22 February 2016

Confirmed speakers include Jamie Shea (NATO), Richard Norton-Taylor (The Guardian), Ricardo Gutiérrez (ULB/European Federation of Journalists) Marie-Soleil Frère (ULB), Martin Plaut, Senior Research Fellow ICWS and Keith Somerville, Institute of Commonwealth Studies and Centre for Journalism, University of Kent.

Convenor: Dr Linda Risso, Department of History, University of Reading Email:


Draft programme:

10:30 Registration. Welcome by Philip Murphy and Linda Risso

10:45 Media and war: long-term perspectives

Ricardo Gutiérrez
Journalists at War, from Crimean War to Ukraine Crisis: An overview on the evolution of war reporter’s practices, from the Crimean War (1853-1856) to the Ukraine crisis (2014-2015).

Keith Somerville
Framing of War by the Media: Examples from the Cold War and After.

Marie-Soleil Frère
What is left of independent journalism in the Burundi crisis?

12:30 Lunch

12:30 Jamie Shea, Sorting out the facts and trying to tell the story.

13:30 First-hand accounts and personal experiences

Martin Plaut
‘Journalism under fire’: Instant judgments and distant editors, the problems of reporting from the field.

Richard Norton-Taylor,
40 Years of Personal Experience

Julian Borger,
The military and the enforcement of international humanitarian law

3:30 Concluding remarks

Marie-Soleil Frère is Senior Researcher at the National Fund for Scientific Research in Belgium and teaches at the Department of Information and Communication Sciences at the University of Brussels (ULB). Since 2009, she is also the director of the Research Centre in Information and Communication (ReSIC) at ULB. Her research focuses on the role played by the media in democratic processes, conflicts, elections and social change in Francophone Sub-Saharan Africa. Her background and experience has always combined an academic career with the management of media development projects, mainly in Burkina Faso and in the African Great Lakes. Her recent books include Elections and the media in post-conflict Africa: votes and voices for peace (2011, Zed Books) and The media and conflicts in Central Africa (2007, Lynne Rienner).

Ricardo Gutiérrez is General Secretary of the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), the largest organisation of journalists in Europe. It represents over 320,000 journalists in 42 countries. Former journalist for the Belgian daily newspaper Le Soir, Ricardo Gutiérrez is senior lecturer at Brussels Free University (ULB). He is also member of the Belgian Press Council (CDJ) and the Executive Committee of the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC). He has conducted training for journalists on hate speech, ethical journalism and reporting on ethnicity and religion. In 2014 and 2015, he has been involved in the dialogue between Ukrainian and Russian journalists’ organisations, in Vienna, under the auspices of the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Dunja Mijatovic.

Richard Norton-Taylor writes for The Guardian on defence and security and until recently was the paper’s security editor. He is a regular broadcaster. He joined The Guardian in 1973 as the newspaper’s first European correspondent based in Brussels. He returned to Britain in 1975. He won the Freedom of Information Campaign Award in 1986 and in 1994, and Liberty’s Human Rights Award for journalism in 2010. He edits The Guardian Defence and Security blog with Ewen MacAskill.

Martin Plaut worked for a year as an Industrial Relations officer with Mobil Oil before joining the British Labour Party as Secretary on Africa and the Middle East in 1979. In 1984 he joined the BBC, working primarily on Africa. He has reported from many parts of the continent but specialised in the Horn of Africa and Southern Africa. This involved travelling twice to Eritrea during its long war of independence, as well as reporting from South Africa during some of the clashes that led to the end of apartheid. During his time with the BBC he carried out investigative programmes on a range of issues, from the arms trade in the Democratic Republic of Congo to the diversion of aid during the Ethiopian famine of 1984-85. In 2011 he reported from the far North of the Democratic Republic of Congo on the attacks by the Lord’s Resistance Army and covered Sudan’s many crises on several occasions. He became Africa editor, BBC World Service News in 2003 and retired from the BBC in October 2013. Among his most recent publications are Promise and despair: The first struggle for a non-racial South Africa, Jacana media, 2016 (forthcoming); Who rules South Africa? Jonathan Ball, 2012 (with Paul Holden); Fighting for Britain. Ethiopia and Eritrea: Allergic to persuasion. Royal Institute of International Affairs, 2007 (with Sally Healy).

Jamie Shea is Deputy Assistant Secretary General for Emerging Security Challenges at the NATO headquarters in Brussels. Before that, he was Director of Policy Planning and Deputy Assistant Secretary General for External Relations in the Public Diplomacy Division. He received worldwide attention during the 1999 Kosovo War when he served as the spokesperson for NATO. Shea has extensive experience in the fields of security, defence and public diplomacy and he is a regular lecturer and conference speaker on NATO and European security affairs and on public diplomacy and political communication.

Keith Somerville is Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies and teaches courses on Propaganda and the Media, and Communications and Humanitarianism at the Centre for Journalism at the University of Kent. He has just published Africa’s Long Road Since Independence. The Many Histories of a Continent and his book on the political economy of the ivory trade will be published later this year. He has written books on radio propaganda and hate broadcasting, Soviet relations with southern African liberation movements and foreign military intervention in Africa. He is a regular contributor to the Royal African Society’s African Arguments website and is now working on a study of media coverage of the Cecil the Lion affair.

Julian Borger is The Guardian’s Diplomatic Editor. He covered the Bosnian war for the BBC and The Guardian, and returned to the Balkans to report on the Kosovo conflict in 1999. He has also served as The Guardian’s Middle East correspondent and its Washington Bureau Chief. Borger was part of the Guardian team that won the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for public service journalism, for its coverage of the Snowden files on mass surveillance. He was also in the team awarded the 2013 Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE) medal and the Paul Foot Special Investigation Award in the UK. His first book, The Butcher’s Trail: How the Search for Balkan War Criminals Became the World’s Most Successful Manhunt, was published in January.


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