South Asian Centre for Journalists Reporting Conflict inaugurated

In the media Special Correspondent, The Hindu - 5th July 2008

(From left) Philippe Stoll, Communication Coordinator, ICRC; N. Murali, Managing Director, The Hindu; V. Murali, Director, Press Institute of India (standing); N. Ram, Editor-in-Chief, The Hindu; and Surinder Singh Oberoi, Communication Officer, ICRC, during the inauguration of the South-Asian Centre for Journalists Reporting Conflict, in Chennai on Friday. — Photo: S.R. Raghunathan

CHENNAI: The South Asian Centre for Journalists Reporting Conflict (SCJRC), a joint venture of the Press Institute of India (PII) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), was inaugurated here on Friday.

It was the need to uphold freedom of the press and to ensure the protection of those dedicated to journalism that spurred the two organisations to set up the SCJRC, according to V. Murali, director, PII. The centre aims at sensitising Indian journalists to the existing rules and norms of conflict, the role played by the media while reporting conflict, safe practices and the management of dangerous assignments.

The initiative will attempt to create a sustainable and permanent centre that will act as a focal point for the training of journalists and for the establishment of a reference centre facilitating the sharing of personal experiences. The centre will focus equally on providing journalistswith important skills in how to protect themselves on the field and equipping them with a basic knowledge of International Humanitarian Law (IHL), a set of rules that protects those who are not or no longer participating in combat.

Inaugurating the SCJRC, N. Ram, Editor-in-Chief, The Hindu, stressed the importance of arriving at a definition of conflict. Though understanding the rules of war was key to journalists on the field, in reality, they had inadequate knowledge of International Humanitarian Law, he said. There was also very little understanding of the rules of war.

The ICRC seeks to preserve a measure of humanity in the midst of war and journalists covering conflict too could be trained to work towards such an ideal. Journalists must realise that there are limits even in a war, limits as to how the combatants must behave and for this they would have to be given an insight into IHL, he added. The centre would begin with an advantage as it had a body of literature and legal experts in the area who could train the journalists.

Philippe Stoll, Communication co-ordinator, ICRC, said they hoped to do more work in prevention, rather than intervening after a crisis had set in.

Mr. Murali announced the creation of the PII-ICRC Awards for reporting on the fate of victims in situations of armed violence. The article, or a series of articles on a single theme, should have been published in an Indian national or regional newspaper or magazine in any Indian language (with translation) or English. Entries may be sent to or posted to Editor, Press Institute of India, RIND Premises, Second Main Road, CPT Taramani Campus, Chennai – 600 113. Ph: 044 22542344 on or before August 30. Three cash prizes will be awarded and presented in the last quarter of 2008 in New Delhi, he said.

N. Murali, Managing Director, The Hindu, said PII, which had been functioning from 1962 in New Delhi, shifted to Chennai, to function on the premises of the Research In Newspaper Development office. With the Asian School of Journalism also soon shifting to the campus, it will emerge as an important hub of training and research in journalism.

Earlier, he received books for the library of the SCJRC from Surinder Singh Oberoi, Communication Officer, ICRC.