Publication Date: May 2017
Research and Editorial Team: Anthony Feinstein, Hannah Storm

The report is based on a quantitative study carried out in late 2016, combined with interviews with several journalists and news managers.

Nine European and American news organisations provided a list of their journalists who were covering the refugee crisis (both journalists and news organisations remain anonymous). Out of 114 journalists approached, 80 (70.2%) agreed to take part in the study.

According to the results, journalists appeared to show a significant degree of resilience: only few symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression were reported. However, many reported issues related to moral injury (defined as "the injury done to a person’s conscience or moral compass by perpetrating, witnessing, or failing to prevent acts that transgress personal moral and ethical values or codes of conduct"). While not a mental illness, unlike PTSD and depression, moral injury can cause considerable emotional upset.

The data also showed that aggravating factors included working alone in the field, having no previous experience covering war, being a parent, guilt (which in turn was associated with providing direct assistance to refugees), an increased workload, and a perceived lack of support from the individual’s news organisation.

Moral injury, rather than PTSD or depression, emerged as the major psychological challenge confronted by journalists covering the migration crisis.

The authors also formulate a set of recommendations - before, during and after deployment - for journalists to manage the emotional toll of covering emotionally challenging situations.

Tags: Safety of journalists Ethics of journalism

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