World Radio Day: How to cover natural disasters and conflicts ethically

To mark World Radio Day 2016 the Ethical Journalism Network has partnered with UNESCO to create a podcast to discuss the ethical issues that radio journalists face when covering conflicts, natural disasters and humanitarian crises.

In this podcast we speak to radio international correspondents and local journalists about their experiences covering earthquakes, typhoons, civil wars, genocide and elections with a special focus on female journalists and the importance of women getting access to accurate information in these circumstances.

World Radio Day 2016

To get involved in World Radio Day 2016 using the hashtag #WorldRadioDay on social media and by going the World Radio Day website.

The podcast is moderated by Aidan White, the director of the Ethical Journalism Network.


  • Former BBC journalist Mark Doyle, covered Africa for decades in various roles. Mark is most well-known for his coverage of the 1994 Rwandan genocide. His reporting has also taken him to Haiti and Pakistan to cover the earthquakes of 2010 and 2005. He also worked as the BBC's International Development correspondent and as official of the United Nations. When Mark left the BBC in 2015, Africa Correspondent Andrew Harding wrote 'The man admired by presidents and warlords', a tribute to his career. Some of Mark's work can also be found in the this article on the BBC website 'A good man in Rwanda'.
  • Anupa Shrestha was the coordinator of Image News FM in Nepal when the earthquakes hit in April and May last year. She is also a board member of The International Association of Women in Radio & Television – IAWRT.
  • Marvie Matura is a radio journalist from the Philippines who covered Typhoon Haiyan in 2013 and is also a member of IWART. Find about IWART's work in the Philippines here.
  • James Copnall was the BBC correspondent for Sudan and South Sudan 2009-12 covering South Sudan’s independence and the conflicts in Darfur, Nuba Mountain and South Sudan. James is the author of A Poisonous Thorn in our Hearts: Sudan and South Sudan's Bitter and Incomplete Divorce.
  • Rachael Nakitare is the former President of The International Association of Women in Radio & Television – IAWRT and Chief Producer for the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation.
  • Melanie Gouby is a freelance writer and documentary filmmaker based in Kenya who worked on the Oscar-nominated documentary "Virunga". From 2011-2012 she was the bureau chief of the Institute for War and Peace Reporting in the Democratic Republic of Congo where she managed a team of 24 Congolese female journalists reporting from across North and South Kivu to produce the radio programme Face à la Justice which was broadcast on local radio stations in the region. Find out more about Melanie's work here:

Key Quotes

Radio saving lives

After the earthquake in Nepal Anupa Shrestha’s radio station could not broadcast for 12 hours but they managed to relocate their studio and begin broadcasting despite the threat of aftershocks. Journalists from the station were able to give eyewitness reports from the worst effected areas and alert rescue teams to where they were most needed.

“Because of radio I am sure that many lives were saved. The journalists went there and did live reporting. That is why the Red Cross went there, why Ambulances reached there. I am sure because of the radio transmission lots of people could save their lives.”

During the Ebola outbreak in 2014 in West Africa Mark Doyle said that local radio stations and some international stations played a “very important role in passing on health messages” about how people could protect themselves.

Safety and care for sources

Marvie Matura: "Right after the typhoon the whole area affected by it was in chaos. Trees, debris and even dead bodies were scattered everywhere and the people were traumatised. So as radio journalists it was hard for us to get to the area and it was a challenge to interview people at that time considering their emotional state. We knew that they were in a rough moment, they were shocked, depressed very confused… As much as you want to get your story you also have to very careful and you have to be sensitive to the feelings of the victims.

James Copnall says that radio is especially important in places like Sudan and South Sudan that have seen so much conflict but warned of the importance of getting informed consent from vulnerable people like women and children.

“The idea of consent from the interviewee - that they agree to be interviewed - but meaningful consent that they actually know what they are agreeing to is something that is extremely important. Someone who has had something traumatic happen to them, a women who has been raped in an inter-ethnic clash for example, if she is agreeing to be interviewed does she realise that that means potentially her name is being heard in her village, in her region, around the world. I think those sorts of issues are very important to consider as a journalist because we know absolutely what we do and who is going to hear the material we produce but that doesn't necessarily mean that the people you interview will."

Melanie Gouby said that protecting sources was especially difficult in community radio as you are broadcasting to the same people who give you sensitive information about their lives. "Even disguising identities was sometimes not possible because voices were recognisable and stories were regcognisable. So we always had long discussion with our sources, especially women who had been raped or a victim of sexual violence, to make sure that they really understood what is meant to talk to us on the radio... Sometimes we would decide not to interview someone if it was too dangerous for them."

Balance in reporting conflict

"Sometimes that isn't a balancing item", says reflecting on his experience covering conflicts like the Rwandan genocide, emphasising the importance of eye witness reporting, for which radio is a particularity good medium.

James Copnall: "What is important is not just talking to local journalists, not just the context but as much as possible - and it is very difficult in some places - going yourself and seeing for yourself. Even if you are going in a press trip organised by the government who wants to show you only one side of the picture, just by being you will see things hear things, observe things."


The podcast also discusses the Ethical Journalism Network's five five point test for hate-speech, which was launched as part of our campaign "Turning the page of hate" in Kigali in 2014 to mark two decades since the Rwandan genocide.

You can listen to section on hate-speech here.

As part of World Radio Day, UNESCO has translated the five point test into Arabic and French and encouraging radio stations use it as poster in newsrooms. The infographic can be downloaded in English here, in French here and in Arabic here.

Radio stations are also being encourage to download and broadcast the Ethical Journalism Network podcast on and before World Radio Day on 13 February 2016.

comments powered by Disqus
ABU, AP, ARD, ARTICLE 19, Accountable Journalism, Afghan Journalists Federation, Afghanistan, Afghanistan Journalists Centre, Africa, Africa e Mediterraneo and Lai-momo Summer School, Agence France-Presse (AFP), Ahmad Quraishi, Ahmet Altan, Aidan White, Aiding Law enforcement, Alan Yuhas, Albania, Ali Sonboly, Aljazeera, Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI), Anders Breivik, Annual Colloquium on Fundamental Rights, Anti-Semitism, Arabic, Ashok Gupta, Ashraf Ghani, Asia, Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union, Associated Reporters Abroad, Association of Commercial Television, Australia, Aylan Kurdi, BBC, BBC Radio London, BBC World Service, Balkans, Barcelona, Barcelona Center for Contemporary Culture (CCCB), Being first, Belgium, Billy Russell, Bob Geldof, Boris Johnson, Bosnia, Boston Marathon bomber, Bottom-line decisions, Brazil, Brexit, Broadcast, Brussels, Brussels Terror Attacks 2016, Bulgaria, Burma, Buzzfeed, CIMA, Can Dündar, Carles Torner, Central Asia, Centre for Media Pluralism and Media Freedom (CPMF), Ceren Sözeri, Channel 4, Charlie Beckett, Charlie Hebdo, Charter of Rome, Child Rights International Network (CRIN), China, Chris Elliott, Christopher Kremmer, Church Action on Poverty, City University London, Climate News Network, Comedy, Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Conference, Conflict, Conservative Party, Consorci Universitat Internacional Menéndez Pelayo de Barcelona (UIMP Barcelona – Centre Ernest Lluch), Controversial photos, Council of Media Ethics of Macedonia (CMEM), Covering politics, Crimea, Croatia, Cumhuriyet - Turkey, Darfur, Dart Center, David Cameron, David Jordan, Declaration of Principles on the Conduct of Journalists, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Denmark, Director's Letter, Donald Trump, Dorothy Byrne, Dr. Zahera Harb, Dunja Mijatovic, EJN Annual Report, EJN Board, EJN International Collaborators, EJN Secretariat, EJN activities, EJN member, EJN participation, EJN report, Earthquakes, Editorial Guidelines, Egypt, Elliot Cass, English, English PEN, Erdem Gül, Eric Baradat, Eric Wishart, Erol Önderoğlu, Ethical Journalism, Ethical Journalism for Free Expression, Ethical Journalism in Action, Ethiopia, Europe, European Commission, European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), European Magazine Media Association, European Media and Information Literacy Forum, European Press Prize, European Union, European University Institute (EUI), Evening Standard, Facebook, Fatumo Farah, Federation of African Journalists (FAJ), Film, Finland, First Amendment Award, Founding EJN member, Fox News, France, Franco-Prussian War, Frans Timmermans, GFMD, Gambia, Gary Younge, Gaza, Geir Terje Ruud, George W. Bush, German PEN, Germany, Getting the story, Gezi Park, Giles Duley, Global Editors Network (GEN), Google, Haim Shibi, Handling sources, Helena Webb, Huffington Post, Human Rights, Humanitarianism, Hungary, Hürriyet - Turkey, IFEX, IPI World Congress, ISIS, Iceland, Independent Association of Egyptian Editors, Independent Press Standards Organisation, Index on Censorship, India, Indonesia, Indonesia;, Indonesian Press Council, Indonesian Press Council (IPC), Institute of the Mediterranean, International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), International Journalism Festival, International Media Ethics Day, International Press Institute (IPI), International Women's Day, Invading privacy, Iran, Israel, Israeli Federation of Journalists, Italy, Jackie Cox, Jakarta, James Copnall, James Rodgers, Jan Egeland, Jane Lydon, Jean-Paul Mathoz, Jerusalem Association of Journalists, Jerusalem Post, John Oliver, Jon Snow, Jordan, Jordan Media Institute, Journalist, Justice and Development Party (AK Party), Justice and Development Party - Turkey, Jyllands Posten, Katie Hopkins, Katie Morris, Keith Somerville, Ken Clarke, Kieran Cooke, Kigali, Kosovo, Lampedusa, Latin America, Latvia, Le Monde, Le Siècle, Lebanon, Leveson, Liat Collins, Lindsey Hilsum, Live Streaming, London Press Club, London School of Economics (LSE), Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), L’Osservatore Romano, Macedonia, Macedonian School of Journalism and Public Relations (SJPR), Malta, Manning, Mare Nostrum, Marina Jirotka, Mark Doyle, Marta Foresti, Martin Plaut, Matt Frei, Matthew Price, Media & Learning, Media Diversity Institute, Media Literacy, Media and Information Literacy, Media and migration, Mediterranean, Megan Howe, Mehmet Baransu, Melanie Gouby, Mexico, Miami Herald, Michael Jetter, Middle East, Military issues, Mogens Blicher Bjerregård, Mohammed Jamjoom, Montenegro, Moving Stories, Myanmar, NGO, NLA University College (Gimlekollen) Kristiansand, NPR, Naming newsmakers, Nasser Abubaker, National Broadcasting Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) Thailand, National Union of Journalists (NUJ) -UK, Natural Disasters, Neil Thurman, Nepal, New York, New York Times, Niangara massacre, Nice, Nigeria, No Borders Project, North America, Norway, Norwegian, Norwegian Institute for Journalism, Norwegian Refugee Council, ONA, ONO, Ofcom, Oficina Antifrau de Catalunya, Ombudsmen, Oona Solberg, Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Organisation of News Ombudsmen, Overseas Development Institute, PEN America, PEN International, Pakistan, Pakistan Coalition for Ethical Journalism, Palestine, Palestinian Journalists Syndicate, Panama, Panama Papers, Paris, Partners Working In Collaboration With the EJN, Peter Greste, Peter Sullivan, Phepchai Yong, Philippines, Pierluigi Musarò, Platform for Independent Journalism (P24), Polis, Pope Francis, Poynter, Prayuth Chan-Ocha, Press Complaints Commission, Press Council in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Press Council of Kosovo (PCK), Press Council of Serbia, Press Council of Thailand, Press Safety, Privy Council, Racheal Nakitare, Rachel Broady, Radio, Randi S. Øgrey, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Reddit, Regulation, Reporters without Borders, Reporters’ Academy, Ricardo Gutierrez, Richard Gutjahr, Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies, Rory Peck Trust, Rossalyn Warren, Royal Charters, Russia, Rwanda, SPJ, Samantha Bee, Sarajevo, Satire, Save the Children, Secret Filming, Self-cencorship, Sensationalism, Sensitive news topics, Serbia, Shaike Komornik, Shami Chakrabarti, Sian Jones, Singapore, Sky News, Snowden, Social Action Centre - Ukraine, Society of Professional Journalists Ethics Code, Soft Censorship, South Africa, South America, South East Europe Media Organisation, South East European Network for Professionalization of the Media, South Eastern Europe, South Sudan, Spain, Sr. Rogelio Grajal, Statewatch, Stephen JA Ward, Steven Livingston, Sudan, Sulome Anderson, Supinya Klangnarong, Sweden, Swedish PEN, Syria, TV, Taraf newspaper - Turkey, Texas A&M University, Thai Association of Journalists, Thai Broadcast Journalists Association, Thailand, The Conversation, The Eagle Tribune, The Guardian, The Independent, The Society of Professional Journalists, The Sun, The Telegraph, The Vatican, Thomas Spence, Tom Law, Transparency International, Tuncay Opçin, Tunisia, Turkey, Twitter, Typhoons, UK, UN, UN Alliance of Civilisations, UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), UNESCO, UNESCO IPDC, UNICEF, US, US Elections 2016, USA, USA Today, Uganda, Ukraine, Ukrainian, United Kingdom, United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, United States, University of Bologna, University of Western Australia, Untold Stories, Veerender Jubbal, Victoria Craw, Vrije Universiteit Brussels (VUB), WAN-IFRA, Wanchai Danaitamonut, Whistleblowing, Wikileaks, William Wintercross, Workplace issues, World Press Freedom Day, World Radio Day, Yasemin Çongar, Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, Zalmaï, accountability, accuracy, advertising, anonymous comments, automation, bias, blasphemy, blog, breaking news, business model, canada, cartoons, censorship, climate change, code of ethics, comments, complaints, corrections, corruption, credibility, crowdfunding, crowdsourcing, data protection, data-driven journalism, democracy, digital, draft law, e European Magazine Media Association, election, ethical journalism weekly roundup, ethics, events, fact checking, fairness, false news, freedom of expression, gender, global ethics, globalism, good news, governance, handbook, hate speech, identity, impunity, infographic, internet, investigative reporting, journalism, journalism training, journalist safety, journalistic methods, journalists in exile, law, legal, libel, media, media audit, media development, media ethics, media ethics and children, media law, migrants, migration, mobile, moderation,, newspapers, objectivity, ombudsman, open journalism, ownership, paid content, photo journalism, pluralism, poverty, press council, press freedom, press release, propaganda, public editor, public interest, public opinion, public trust, readers’ editor, refugee crisis, refugees, reliability, religion, representation, rhetoric, right to be forgotten, right to information, robot journalism, rumours, self regulation, self-regulation, shield law, social media, standards, statements, style guide, suicide, surveys, technology, terrorism, transparency, trolls, turning the page of hate, verification, video, vulgarities, war, women, İpek Yezdani, ​Jennifer Mercieca