Challenges of Journalism in War

The role of journalism in reporting and solving conflicts cannot be underestimated. The world relies on the reporting of journalists to get an accurate account of the happenings during war. Usually, journalists can uncover aspects such as human rights abuse and quash propaganda reports during and after a war (Knightley 2002). However, the role of journalism at such times faces numerous challenges because of the complexity of the war. Journalists commit a large chunk of their time to the coverage of war and other conflicts endangering their lives in the process. Some of the challenges facing journalists revolve around their lives while others have to do with the technicality of war reporting. Regardless, challenges abound, and war reporting is one of the best yardsticks to measure journalists’ weaknesses and strengths. The LTTE War provides a revelation of the types of challenges that journalists face in covering conflicts.

Perhaps the biggest challenge faced by journalists has to do with the deliberate attempts by warring parties to mislead the public (Zavaritt 2006). The opposing sides in war give conflicting information regarding the progression of the conflict. Ideally, the goal of each of these warring parties is to depict the enemy as weak and worthy of the attack. In this regard, the participating parties aim to influence public support and aim at sending their own accounts of the war to their advantage. In the LTTE War, the Sri Lankan government faced an insurgency from a group that advocated for the creation of an independent state in the North (Aryasinha 2001). The conflict culminated in a civil war that eventually faded after 26 years of fighting and the defeat of the insurgency. For instance, the government was in conflict with the international media for reporting propaganda as advanced by the LTTE group. The government advocated for media reports that did not taint its image, and that showed concern for the country. On the other hand, the LLTE group advanced reports of human rights abuse by the government to gain the support of the public.

There is an old saying to the effect that truth is the first casualty in time of war. Consequently, it could be said that the second casualty is the truth teller or the journalist. Many journalists are killed in war as they cross the battle line to get vital reports. It has been observed that journalists are doing almost everything to bring the news of war home and live (Thussu 2005). The motivation for this kind of assignments stems from the fact that war stories sell a great deal in today’s modern world. The notion that bad news sells more than good news is quite true.In the process, journalists have endangered their lives resulting in the death of a significant number of reporters. For instance, the LTTE war resulted in the loss of tens of journalists over its long period. Some of these journalists were killed and hidden such that no reports of their deaths were captured in the news. Such is the irony of life that even reporters’ deaths do not appear on the news. In addition, other journalists were maimed for reporting news that was unpopular with either the military or the rebel group.  Ultimately, journalists are bound to die as they cannot appease all the parties involved in a war.

Besides physical harm, journalists also face the prospects of psychological challenges resulting from the effects of the war. Reports have indicated that psychological stress is one of the leading challenges in war reporting (Gandour 2016).  The conditions that the journalists persevere as they report war are psychologically disturbing. In this regard, most managers from different media stations desist from sending new journalist to war zones as they are more likely to suffer from the effects of stress. The continuous sound of gunfire and mortar bombings is quite disturbing for people that have no military experience in their lives (Franks 2003). Many of these journalists, therefore, end up inflicting psychological harm and eventually failing in their jobs. Moreover, the psychological challenges may come from long periods of captivity by warring parties that want to solicit and distort reporting information. The goal of these captions is to influence the reporting generated by media outlets and obtain a favorable position in the general sphere of media reporting. The result is an increase in the number of journalists maimed resulting in overall poor performance.

In conclusion, the role of journalism in a way is clearly shown in the handling and reporting of war and conflict. Journalists provide an account of events during wars. However, these reporters are faced with numerous challenges in the course of their jobs which affect their personal and work lives. While some of these challenges can easily be overcome, others such as death leave a permanent mark in their lives (Markham 2011). Their families feel the pain of losing loved ones. Children become orphans, wives become widows and husbands become widowers. The LTTE war is a testament to the evidence of such challenges as tens of journalists lost their lives over the period that the war lasted. Other challenges have to do with accurate reporting and access of information. These challenges ultimately hinder their performance resulting in poor reporting.



Gandour, Ricardo. 2016. “Journalism And Democracy Facing Common Risks And Challenges”. Journal Of Applied Journalism & Media S 5 (1): 71-77.

Zavaritt, G. 2006. “Book Review: Reporting War, Journalism In Wartime”. Journalism 7 (1): 124-125.

Knightley, Phillip. 2002. “Journalism, Conflict And War: An Introduction”. Journalism Studies 3 (2): 167-171.

Thussu, D. 2005. “Book Review: Media At War: The Iraq Crisis”. Journalism 6 (1): 126-126. doi:

Aryasinha, Ravinatha. 2001. “Terrorism, The LTTE And The Conflict In Sri Lanka”. Conflict, Security & Development 1 (02): 25-50.

Markham, T. 2011. “The Political Phenomenology Of War Reporting”. Journalism 12 (5): 567-585.

Franks, Tim. 2003. “Not War Reporting – Just Reporting”. British Journalism Review 14 (2): 15-19..

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