Veteran editor on reporting conflicts

Predicting unfolding conflicts is getting harder, the defence and diplomatic editor of The Independent told a DPAAL meeting hosted by the Embassy of Portugal.

“We didn’t see the Arab Spring coming,” said Kim Sengupta, who was back from covering the fall of Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe “which we also didn’t foresee.”

“Reporters new to a situation don’t always understand the nuances,” he said. “This is something diplomats do better.”

Sengupta said cutbacks for foreign reporting were problematic because journalists needed to be on the ground. “Otherwise you rely on information from activists which is not neutral,” he said. There are not the resources to cover conflicts, which is why unfolding situations don’t always hit the news radar, he said.

With journalists being targeted in conflicts like Syria it becomes too dangerous to operate, he added.

Diplomats shared their concerns that in the age of social media there were “too many opinions and too little knowledge” making accurate reporting even more critical.