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Comparison of Israel-Palestine war to Holocaust not conflict sensitive

By Dex Mumo

The Holocaust reminds us of the World War II genocide between 1941 and 1945, in which Germany’s Nazi regime killed over six million European Jews under the leadership of Adolf Hitler.

Many decades later, journalists have no option but to abide by the rules of conflict-sensitive journalism —irrespective of the situation and their social media platform.

Let us sift Dennis Onsarigo’s response on his X handle. What’s our justification? Onsarigo is a former investigative journalist and Chief of Staff at the Nyamira County government. However, once a journalist, always a journalist.

On October 18, 2023, Onsarigo posted a statement on his X account regarding the Israel-Palestine conflict. While deploring the actions of Hamas and the Israeli government, several elements in the statement deviated from conflict-sensitive journalism.

I don’t support the terror Hamas visited on Israel or the genocidal retaliatory attacks on Palestine by the Israelis, but I keep wondering why a race that was a victim of a holocaust can turn around and inflict so much pain on another race for decades? Any lessons learnt from Hitler’s reign of terror? Palestinians cannot even fish more than 6 miles from the shoreline; some can’t freely cross to visit their own on the West Bank… Ideally, the Gaza Strip is an open-air prison where those who live there are condemned to die before they do. Dead men walking. I hope with this latest conflict, a lasting solution shall be found.”

Onsarigo’s statement raised questions about the actions of a particular race, making a generalisation that fails to consider the complexities of the conflict. Linking the conflict to the Holocaust and drawing parallels with Hitler’s reign of terror oversimplifies the situation and detracts from the intricate historical and political dynamics at play.

Using highly emotional language, such as referring to the Gaza Strip as an “open-air prison” and describing its inhabitants as “dead men walking”, can contribute to a narrative that hinders constructive dialogue and non-violent approaches to the conflict. Sensationalism and exaggeration can overshadow the diverse experiences and perspectives within the Gaza Strip, further polarising the discourse.

Conflict-sensitive journalism requires journalists to strive for neutrality and objectivity, presenting facts and multiple perspectives to foster understanding. By avoiding generalisations, like the ones used by Onsarigo in his statement, refraining from emotional language, and acknowledging the complexities of the conflict, journalists can contribute to a more nuanced understanding among their audience.

In the face of world disasters, wars, and conflicts, journalists are consistently tested in their ability to report objectively. Their role as neutral observers sets them apart from the general public as they strive to remain at the centre of conflicting narratives.

By carefully choosing their words and avoiding personal opinions, journalists have the potential to serve as mediators, fostering understanding and dialogue amidst chaos and turmoil. However, it is crucial to recognise the challenges of maintaining objectivity, especially when reporting on deeply divisive conflicts such as the Israel-Palestine conflict.

Conflict-sensitive journalism emphasises the importance of presenting balanced viewpoints and avoiding the perpetuation of stereotypes or biases. It calls for journalists to navigate the complexities and nuances of a conflict, considering historical, political, and social factors. This approach enables them to provide a broader perspective that encourages understanding and empathy among readers and viewers.

Journalists must exercise caution and present information without injecting personal prejudices or assumptions into their reporting.

In the face of conflicts and wars, journalists play a critical role as mediators by choosing their words wisely and upholding objectivity. However, it is essential to be mindful of the challenges and pitfalls that may arise.

By adhering to the principles of conflict-sensitive journalism, journalists can navigate the complexities of conflicts like the Israel-Palestine conflict, promote informed discussions, and contribute to the search for lasting solutions.

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