Rethinking Journalism: Conflict Reporting Guidelines

These guidelines for conflict reporting were created by the participants of Rethinking Journalism training session in September 2014.


Rethinking Journalism in action

There is not necessarily a need to look at so-called conflict zones to do conflict-sensitive reporting, sometimes a look around you is enough to find something interesting to cover. This is what some of the working groups of Rethinking Journalism did in Berlin. We joined Mathias Birsens (Germany), Agnija Kazusa (Latvia) and Dhaker Youssef (Tunisia) during their first full day of media productions.

Mathias and Agnija

Photo credit: Massinissa Benlakehal

For their piece on the situation of refugees in Berlin they are preparing visits to the scenes of refugee rights protests to interview activists. The planning was quite intense due to the time pressure and the interview schedules and trips to places where refugee rights movements are taking place had to be planned fast. But the tasks were divided quickly and a special dynamic developed thanks to the different languages in the group. Martin was able to get in touch with German spokespersons of a district in Berlin where refugees and refugee rights activists, is occupying a school and Dhaker helped with the translation from French into English during the interviews with refugee rights activists. Amdy, 34, from Senegal is one of them.

The group agreed to meet with him at the occupied school and as we arrived at the school gate, that had been locked by security, Dhaker phoned Amdy who came out. He took us to a nearby café and over a cup of tea, Mathias, Agnija, and Dhaker spoke to him about his activism in Berlin and his story of coming from Senegal to Germany via Italy.

The media production group interviewing refugee rights activist, Amdy, 34. Photo: Lisa Zeller

Stay tuned for our presentation of the rest of the stories from Rethinking Journalism.

Text: Lisa Zeller


“The essence of good reporting is to take the little thing you can observe on the ground and put it in the bigger picture”

Putting things into the bigger picture and practice, that was what the 5th day of the workshop was all about. Moving from theory to practice, participants revised the guidelines of ethical journalism and conflict-sensitive reporting they had developed with the trainer Gülsen D. the day before.

That a single perspective is dangerous in journalism was one of the major points that were stressed. In order to achieve conflict-sensitive reporting one would have to avoid ethnocentric views, stereotypes, and move beyond a black and white image of victim and perpetrator.

Jaafar Abdul Karim, credit Pascale Müller
Jaafar Abdul Karim. Photo: Pascale Müller

To help the participants bridge the theoretical input and the media production Jaafar Abdul Karim, moderator of “Shabab Talk” at the German TV channel Deutsche Welle paid a visit to the workshop. Together with him, the young journalists tried to implement their knowledge on a real world situation. How would they design a talk show about the recent Gaza conflict taking for an audience of young Arabs in Germany? Whom would they invite?

Still having their guidelines in mind, many responded that the aim should be to invite guests from both the Israeli and the Palestinian side. It was debated how much sense it would make to invite guests with strongly opposing views. Could it harm the talk show more than it would benefit? Maybe it would be better to focus more on speakers that have some sort of conflict solution in mind?

While Jaafar explained how he decided who was invited to such a talk show, it became evident in the group that implementing the rules they had developed on a daily basis in their journalistic work might sometimes not even be possible. As one participant pointed out: “In a conflict with such history and complexity, it is hard to include all perspectives, because there are so many divisions even within the parties that are usually seen as opponents.”

Roy Gutman, credit Pascale Müller
Roy Gutman via Skype. Photo: Pascale Müller

After the session with Jaafar, Pulitzer Price winner Roy Gutman joined the group via Skype to give them insight into how ethical reporting on conflicts and wars can reflect in fieldwork. He stressed the importance of journalists to dig deeper, to not accept the first version of a story. “Good journalism is that you do not stop at stories people tell you,” he told participants. Gutman also brought the topic of activism from Monday’s panel “Journalists as activist or observers” back into discussion. For him there is no debate: “Journalists should not be activists. We are there to report the facts on the ground.”

With the input and the professional experience, it was time to get the production going. The editorial team consisting of Maria Wölfle, Assaad Thebian, and Pascale Müller introduced the online magazine as the final output of the workshop. Topics ranged from the conflict between refugees and the local administration in Berlin over the housing crisis and Russian separatists in Latvia. As Gutman said: “Essence of good reporting is to take the little thing you can observe on ground and put it in the bigger picture.” In the next days small reporting teams will keep working on their stories to make this happen.

Text: Pascale Müller

Rethinking Journalism: Editorial Team

The media production at Rethinking Journalism starts today and we are happy to introduce to you our editorial team.


Joyce Taylor, editor-in-chief

A complex lass smitten with high tea and rainy gloom, Joyce Taylor was born and raised South Florida, but grew up in the Pacific Northwest and considers herself more a hippy at heart. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Journalism & Media Studies and a master’s degree in Media Studies & Sociology. Joyce currently resides in Berlin, where she freelances as a media consultant.

Maria Wölfle, facilitator

Maria holds a BA in Cultural Anthropology and Communication Science and is about to finish her MA in Political Science. Her focus is on the relation between religion, culture and politics, particularly in the Middle East and North Africa. She has been studying and working as a freelance journalist in Buenos Aires and done internships at a magazine in Dubai and TV channels in Berlin. She is currently based in Hamburg, Germany.

Assaad Thebian, facilitator

Assaad is a freelance journalist and blogger from Beirut. He currently runs a media and research center project specialised in monitoring the Lebanese media sphere ( He is a digital media strategist and trainer, a certified Google Analytics and Advertisements, and winner of the ArabNet 2013 Creative Combat.

Pascale Müller, facilitator

Pascale is a freelance journalist on MENA politics, women’s rights and Islamic terror. She holds a B.A. in Sociology and Political Science and studied at the Danish School of Journalism. Currently she fights the hopelessness of the German province in Reutlingen, where she lives and studies at the journalism school “Zeitenspiegel Reportageschule”.

Rethinking Journalism: Trainers

Vanessa Basil

Vanessa Bassil photo

Vanessa Bassil is a freelance journalist, peace activist and trainer. She is the Founder & President of Media Association for Peace- MAP, the 1st NGO in Lebanon & MENA region dedicated to work on Peace Journalism. She holds BA’s in Journalism and in Political and Administrative Sciences. She also earned a Master degree in Media, Peace and Conflict studies at the UN Mandated University for Peace, Costa Rica, where she has developed the concept of Peace Journalism in her thesis from the approach of a critical peace research agenda. Ms Bassil reported for five years for Lebanese and Foreign media outlets, covering social, political and youth issues and writing about peace stories.

Gulsen D.

Gulsen is a media development trainer and coach, who studied International Relations and Arabic Language and Culture at the University of Amsterdam. She has lived in Cairo, Istanbul, Beirut, Amsterdam, Sarajevo, and now she is working with Syrian media activists.

The biographies were provided by the trainers.

Rethinking Journalism: Introducing the Participants

Menac introduces to you the next eleven participants of the Rethinking Journalism session.

Aya Chebbi (Tunisia)


Aya Chebbi is an award winning pan-Africanist activist and renowned blogger. Her passion for storytelling has taken her to over 20 countries in Africa and the Middle East, where conflicts are complex to deconstruct. She has written pieces for Arab, American, German, Swedish, British and South African magazines and websites with a keen focus on social movements, human rights, peace and conflicts in Africa and the Middle East. Interested in filmmaking, peace and conflict, Aya produced long documentary “Africa Inspire: Kenya’s Conscious Transformation” and short documentary “Arab Muslims Living in the USA”, which was shortlisted for PLURAL + 2013 Youth Video Festival.

Kathrin Faltermeier (Germany)


Kathrin studied Political Sciences in Germany and France and holds a Masters degree in „International Political Journalism“ from Sciences Po Aix-en-Provence. She worked as a journalist in Senegal and was editorial assistant for the European online magazine Cafébabel. She currently lives in Tunis.

Emmanuel Haddad (Lebanon)


Emmanuel has been a freelance journalist for 3 years and reported from zones of political unrest and conflict for the last 2 years, in countries such as Niger, Mali, Lebanon and Iraq. He tries to work on the margins of a conflict, on how it affects people in their every day life, strategies of survival and resistance to violence, and not only on the political and military aspects of it. Emmanuel’s work has been published in media such as Le Courrier, La Liberté, Sept, Alternatives Internationales, La Cité, Jeune Afrique, L’Express, Regards, Imagine, Terra Eco.

Sally Eshun (Germany)


Sally is an editor-in-chief of a youth magazine (FREIHAFEN) and contributing editor at local online magazine. She thinks it is important to question news reporting on sensitive issues and to contribute to a de-escalating atmosphere as a journalist. Especially in war zones.

Katharina Walbert (Austria)


Katharina is 19 years old and is studying Journalism and Communication studies in Vienna. She is board member of Youth Press Austria and did journalistic work for different magazines. Katharina is fascinated about journalism since she is a little kid, like when she worked for her school magazin at the age of 10.

Inasa Bibic (Bosnia and Herzegovina)


Although born and raised in Sarajevo, Inasa has lived in Berlin for 2 years now. As a student of Humanities, the Arts and Social Thought at Bard College Berlin, she is very much interested in the interconnectedness of the world, people and all phenomena that surround us. It is through (mostly journalistic) writing and photography that she has found he mediums of expressing these things. Inasa strongly believes that people can be impacted through powerful storytelling and imagery. Making these mediums impactful is still a learning path for her. One of the main reasons she applied for “Rethinking Journalism” is exactly thanks to its plethora of topics, as well as combined theoretical and practical work. As somebody interested in interdisciplinary fields and socially aware creative work, she believes trainings such as this one can be more helpful in forming a professional path (or a life call) than four years of college often are. There comes a time when you just have to go out there and do what feels right for you, and not what the books have been telling you your whole life.

Helene Timm (Germany)


Helene Timm has always liked to be engaged in a variety of projects with lots of different people. Writing became one of the most important tools to communicate with others and spread the word about social, cultural or political issues. But whenever she takes a look at the news, I feel like media is not making too much of an effort to search for peaceful solutions but is focusing on the downfalls in the world. That is why she likes to see media as an opportunity for herself and everyone else to change the world-view.

Hend Kortam (Egypt)


Hend Kortam is a 22-year old, Cairo-based journalist. I love traveling because it is an enriching and life-changing experience that provides an opportunity to meet and bond with people from different countries and to learn about different cultures. Writing news for print and online media is what she does the best. That means that she often finds herself writing about countries in conflict, an often challenging task, both on the personal and professional levels. For the time being, she will do all she can to provide accurate and objective reporting on the developing crises in the region, until the day that the Middle East will have peace.

Radhouane Addala (Tunisia)


Radhouane Addala is a a freelance correspondent and producer based in Tunis with experience working across the Maghreb for international news agencies as a reporter, stringer and fixer. He now mostly works with television and as the LA Times’ special correspondent in Tunisia.

Teresa Mayr (Austria)


Teresa finished BA in African Studies last year and she is about to finish he BA in International Development at the University of Vienna. She just started a Masters in Social Economy and Social Work at the FH Campus Wien – University of Applied Sciences. Teresa’s last internship was at the Institute for Peace Support and Conflict Management. Besides she is working with the Diakonie for the Ecumenical Accompany Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI), she was an EA in 2012 and spent 3 months in Palestine and Israel.

Yara Nahle (Lebanon)


Yara is a student and journalist from Lebanon. She writes in local media outlets. She is interested in the political, economic and social structures of my country and the region. And she believes in empowering the youth and activating its participation in shaping these structures. Hence, most of her writings are concerned with the youth and their role. She is also aiming at involving herself in types of journalism other than print. She believes in the great role the media can play to influence the course of events, that is why she chose to enter such an influential field of life, and she will only try to use it in a way as to make it exercise a more positive impact on the world.

Nedim Hadrovic (Bosnia and Herzegovina)


Nedim is a people person and loves cultures and colorful food. He has spent the majority of his life living and studying abroad, from the Middle East to the Far East. He graduated with a Digital Media and Film degree and is an aspiring journalist, media expert, and filmmaker. His visual work has been shown at galleries and festivals in Malaysia, Singapore and New York City, and he has written for Deutsche Welle and OpenDemocracy. He is currently preparing his feature documentary on the Bosnian Jewish community.