Early Warning: The Role of the Media
Tina Rosenberg: I’m Tina Rosenberg, from the New York Times editorial page, and this is a panel about the role of the media.
We all know how the media can and has contributed to the commission of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. We are all aware of the role that Radio Mille Collines has played, that the nationalist media in various parts of the former Yugoslavia has played in exploiting and intensifying peoples’ sense of victimization and urging them on to commit crimes.
We are going to deal with the opposite side of that question today, which is: Can reporters also do some good? Can they play a role in identifying, preventing, informing the world about these crimes? How do we do that and the question behind all that, which is: Should we think of that as part of our job or not? Is that appropriately part of the job of a journalist? And I think we’re mainly talking about journalists working for the western media today.
Our panelists this morning will wrestle with those issues and also talk about a new project that will try and help reporters improve their coverage of wars and atrocities. Let me briefly introduce them. You can read more about them in the—in your—in your packets.
Deborah Lipstadt will speak first. She is a professor of modern Jewish and Holocaust studies at Emery University. She is one of our leading scholars on the Holocaust in modern perspective. She’s the author of two extremely relevant and critically acclaimed books, one of them, Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory. And the other, which will form more of the basis of her remarks today, Beyond Belief: The American Press and the Coming of the Holocaust.
Our next speaker will be Ed Vulliamy, who is the United States correspondent for the Observer and the Guardian newspapers. From 1991 to 1994, he covered the war in the former Yugoslavia for the Guardian. He has also been a television reporter. And among his books are Seasons in Hell: Understanding Bosnia’s War.
Then, we will have Tom Gjelten, who is the diplomatic correspondent of National Public Radio. He covered the wars of Central America and the former Yugoslavia, and he is the author of Sarajevo Daily: A City and its Newspaper Under Siege.
The next speaker will be Roy Gutman. Roy has heard me tell this story before, but I met a Bosniac in the town of Prijedor who carries Roy’s card around in his shirt pocket. Roy was the first journalist to write about the concentration camps in the Prijedor area of northern Bosnia, and his reporting directly led to the camps’ closure several days later. Many of the Muslims in Prijedor and in Sanski Most think, probably with some accuracy, that Roy helped save their lives. Roy is a correspondent for Newsday. He also is a veteran of Central America and wrote a book called Banana Diplomacy. And his book about Bosnia is called Witness to Genocide.
Our last speaker will be Elizabeth Neuffer. She is a Boston Globe reporter currently at the Council on Foreign Relations as the Edward R. Murrow fellow, where she is writing about war crimes. She was the European Bureau Chief for five years and also reported from Rwanda in 1996.