Magazine article The Quill

New Resource to Aid War Reporting

Magazine article The Quill

New Resource to Aid War Reporting

Article excerpt

The Society of Professional Journalists International Journalism Committee released its new book - Journalists' Guide to the Geneva Conventions -during the SPJ National Convention in October in Columbus, Ohio. The handbook is designed to help writers and editors accurately explain war crimes and how international treaties address them.

The project began as a simple fact sheet on what protection journalists enjoy under the Geneva Conventions; it became a 165page handbook written by Maria Trombly, a member of the International Journalism Committee. Trombly's Russian heritage sparked her interest in world affairs, and she joined SPJ's International Journalism Committee after coming home from assignments for Reuters in the Caucasus.

The heart of the guide is a plain-English glossary of the most important terms and ideas found in the Geneva Conventions. Each entry refers the user to the relevant section of the four Conventions of 1949, included in full in the Guide. The Guide also includes a section of referrals for further reading.

The Geneva Conventions of 1949 were an attempt to bring a measure of civility to warfare. These four treaties are almost universally revered and almost nowhere understood, said the committee. The actual treaties are readily available in many libraries, along with a discussion of how they fit into international law. But these discussions are often complex and - unless you are an international lawyer - very difficult to understand.

"While there are many places to read the conventions and scholarly analyses of them, there appeared to be no quick reference in plain language a writer on deadline needs," wrote John Hopkins, chairman of the International Journalism Committee, in his funding request to the Sigma Delta Chi Foundation board of directors. …

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