The Faculty of Mass Communication and Fine Arts at Maaref University held an online seminar titled “Reporters in the Line of Fire” on Thursday, July 16, 2020. Al Mayadeen’s Syria Correspondent Ogarit Dandash and Alikhbaria Syria journalist Hussein Mortada participated in the event.
The event began with the faculty dean, Dr. Ali Takach giving a welcoming speech to the two guests. The dean stated that the seminar was part of a series of specialized seminars the faculty is organizing for its students in order to further develop their journalistic skills and expertise.
Al Mayadeen War Correspondent Ogarit Dandash then gave a speech explaining the implications of covering the aftermaths of war on a professional and humanitarian level. She also spoke about the psychological effects war coverage has on correspondents, taking the Syrian war as an example. In the context of her speech, Dandash also discussed the fieldwork requirements for reporters on the military confrontation lines, which she says comes from professional skills and experience acquired over time. She stressed the importance of “increasing and transferring experiences to fellow journalists in order to deal properly with the military and logistical conditions in the field.”
Dandash spoke about the dangers field reporters and correspondents face on the battlefield. She offered instructions on how journalists should examine large amounts of information during difficult circumstances and avoid making mistakes that could affect their credibility. Dandash also briefly addressed the competition journalists face today, especially from social media, in regards to publishing news fast.
Dandash concluded her speech discussing the humanitarian aspects of reporters since they are “usually affected by the circumstances surrounding them and this can be reflected in their media performances.” She said journalists should always humanize their work, making it compatible with the amount of pain and violence they are experiencing in countries suffering from war and tragedy.
Following this, Alikhbaria Syria journalist Hussein Mortada, delivered a speech titled “The Dialectic of Media and Psychological Wars: A Reporter’s Experience on the Frontlines of the War in Syria.” He discussed the War Media Center’s experience since its foundation and how it historically managed its war coverage starting in the 1980s. Mortada reviewed the psychological role the resistance played during the documentation and broadcasting of its operations, which worked to refute the stories published by the occupation.
Mortada then referred to the psychological warfare methods adopted by some media outlets, noting that “it is impossible for the media to be neutral, especially when a country is in danger.” Speaking about the media war in Syria, Mortada explained that “the media was the one who was making policy in the war on Syria.” He said this was evident through the media pressure on social media and the subsequent meetings at the UN Security Council.
On the other hand, Mortada gave examples from his personal experiences as a correspondent in Syria. He discussed how his journalistic work progressed from what began as a defensive state of mind, denying the fall of military sites and areas, to attacking at a later stage, considering the media war was focusing on psychological factors in order to cause frustration. He stressed the need for the media to remain professional and credible.