9/11: Taking conflict reporting to a different level

Four weeks after 9/11, US- and Nato forces attacked Afghanistan. 2003, the war in Iraq broke out. Since then, western journalists have developed new approaches but also work under more dangerous conditions when they report from those regions, journalist Martin Staudinger says.

Before 2001, western journalists mainly focused on the Israel/Palestine-conflict when they wrote about the Middle East. However, according to the Austrian journalist Martin Staudinger who has been covering issues of this region since the 90s, the terrorist-attacks on the World Trade Center gradually shifted the interest of western media to other regions: “We know 1000 per cent more about the Afghan province Helmand now, for example. This, of course, is still far too little.”

Since Western forces became involved in conflicts such as Afghanistan, not only the regional focus and the topics journalists write about have changed. They also developed new ways of reporting: Since the Iraq intervention in 2003, the profession of news reporters being attached to military units involved in armed conflicts evolved. Today, they are known as ‘embedded journalists’.

Staudinger knows from his own experience as a conflict reporter, that this kind of journalism is subject of debate. Because of security reasons, journalists who travel with a military organization cannot report independently as they often have get their work approved by them. “But it is still an indispensable opportunity for journalists to have a look at the work of armed forces in conflicts.”

On the one hand, journalists now have more opportunities to write and travel to those conflict regions. On the other hand, the interventions made it even more dangerous to report from there. Without the protection of the allied forces, it is difficult for journalists to  travel around in Afghanistan. “However, at the same time when you seek protection, you will be considered as a target”, the journalist says.

But how do people living in the war zones react to the increasing interest of western media since 2001? According to Staudinger, the imminent reality of the people from Afghanistan hasn’t changed a lot since 9/11. “Except for the fact that they do not only have to cope with warlords and the Taliban, but also with Nato-forces too.”

While the western media now is in a kind of 9/11-anniversary hype, Staudinger doubts that this date means a lot to people living in Afghanistan. “People there have other problems. They fight for bare survival.”

Bio: Martin Staudinger (43) currently works at the foreign desk for profil, Austria’s biggest news-magazine. He has specialized in conflict reporting and traveled to Afghanistan several times as embedded journalist.