Protecting civilians in armed conflict
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Geneva Call organizes its first workshop for journalists on the protection of internally displaced persons

6th December 2018 | Iraq - Humanitarian norms

On November 7 and 8 2018, Geneva Call organized a two-day workshop on the protection of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in armed conflict for Kurdish journalists in Erbil. Eighteen TV, radio, print and online media journalists from across different areas of the Kurdistan region of Iraq took part in the workshop. Over the two days, the journalists actively interacted with trainers on the topic and discussed the national laws relevant to displaced people and refugees. They also suggested that Iraq and more specifically the Kurdistan region, should pass laws specifically to protect IDPs.

The Kurdistan region of Iraq has some of the highest numbers of IDPs and returnees in the country, according to local press sources. Both IDPs and returnees in Iraq face many socio-economic, educational and security problems and challenges. In addition to the work done by the authorities, and by international and local NGOs in improving the protection of IDPs, the media also has a crucial role to play, especially in creating a conducive environment for the safe return of displaced people. The main issue is that there is a lack of knowledge among the media about International Humanitarian Law (IHL) and the thematic areas it covers; the journalists therefore found the workshop to be useful in increasing their awareness on IHL generally and on the issue of displacement more specifically.

‘’This training event was important for the journalists because their knowledge of IHL and the rights of IDPs and civilians during armed conflict was limited. I am sure this training will have a practical impact on their work in the future. Personally, it enabled me to rethink and better understand what I previously knew about this topic’’ said Nyaz Abdullah, a journalist from Radio Nawa.

The journalists highlighted the importance of neutral field reporting from the camps to show the reality of the areas retaken from the Islamic State group (ISg), in particular to document whether the humanitarian and security conditions make it appropriate for people to return to the area.

“We found this workshop to be particularly important for those journalists working in the areas affected by displacement. These kinds of training events are very useful for us as journalists, especially in Kirkuk, as the city has experienced displacement from the various conflicts over the years’’ said Karwan Salihi, a Kirkuk-based journalist from the Kirkuk Now online news platform.

‘’Organizing such training is very important for journalists because this region, and in general the Middle East, is unstable and vulnerable to armed conflict which can cause displacement. Therefore, journalists need to be trained on how to deal with the victims of conflict and to be able to properly document evidence of human rights violations’’ said Dilshad Abdullah, a journalist from MBN Radio.

During the last quarter, in addition to continuing to raise awareness of IHL among armed non-State actors and civil society organizations, Geneva Call also started to provide training on the protection of IDPs during armed conflict for other stakeholders, and so far, has organized number of trainings on this issue across Iraq. This was the first such training event specifically targeting the media.