Journalism and trauma

THE EXILED Journalists' Network (EJN) organised a course on journalism and trauma earlier this year, with £500 from London Freelance Branch's training fund covering the costs of the venue, feeding the participants and bringing them to London from around the UK. The original plan was for a course to orientate EJN members to the UK media, but it was decided that the resources would be better used on a much more basic and pressing issue preventing exiled journalists practising their occupation in the UK - dealing with the traumas they experienced in the countries that they had to flee. EJN co-ordinator Forward Maisokwadzo reports.

The session was held on 25 January at the Centre for Counselling and Psychotherapy Education in London: 15 exiled journalists attended. It was a diverse group with members from Iraq, Pakistan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Palestine, Sierra Leone, Sudan and Zimbabwe.

Norbert Mbu-Mputu, an exiled journalist from the Congo, said: "It was refreshing for me and I wish we can do more of these sessions. It is not easy to overcome some of the traumas we've experienced back home. The situation is worsened by some of our cases being rejected by the Home Office as they don't understand the dangers some of us experienced when doing our jobs as journalists.

"I spent most of my time living in a shelter," Norbert recalled, "and at times sleeping on the London night buses, before I was moved to Newport. It's not easy but we have do address some these challenges and that's why I liked about the session - it tried to help us overcome issues of trauma we experience daily."

The trainer, Mark Brayne, former director of the Dart Centre Europe for Journalism & Trauma, said: "Thanks for organising the session. And I'm pleased that participants felt it was worthwhile. Perhaps we have sown a seed, and with some watering and nurturing, it can turn into a more robust plant in the coming months and years.

"We'll keep in touch on this project, and good luck to you Forward, with thanks also for having had the courage to launch the ideas this way."

Our aim is to replicate another session to benefit those who didn't manage to attend.

The NUJ's annual conference in April heard that the first asylum seeker to get full NUJ membership, exiled Pakistani freelance journalist Mansoor Hassan, had just been granted leave to remain in the UK.

Belfast Branch member Kevin Cooper told the conference that more work needs to be done on trauma among journalists who reported on Northern Ireland's Troubles. General Secretary Jeremy Dear, opening the conference, said, "Our mission is under threat: impunity stalks the world. Only two per cent of people who kill journalists are brought to justice."

Former BBC Gaza correspondent Alan Johnston told the same conference: "we must honour and remember our dead, but perhaps it's more important to remember those who are very much alive but facing danger or death" in Palestine, Iraq, the Philippines and elsewhere.

Alan Johnston (left) with London Freelance Branch vice-chair Dave Rotchelle at ADM: photo © Guy Smallman
Alan Johnston (left) with London Freelance Branch vice-chair Dave Rotchelle at ADM

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