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By Darcel Choy Tuesday, March 10 2015

A journalist’s job is never easy but it becomes difficult when accusations and counter accusations are made by political parties during campaigning.

Patrick Butler, Vice President, Programmes at the International Centre for Journalists, said this is when it is most important for a journalist to question claims being made by one person against another.

He was speaking yesterday at the two-day workshop for journalists on covering elections, held at the United States (US) Embassy’s Public Affairs Section, Sweet Briar Road, Port-of-Spain. The workshop is hosted by the Trinidad and Tobago Publishers and Broadcasters Association, Association of Caribbean Media Workers and the US Embassy. Butler was addressing the topic of conflict and elections where he said the media’s role was to correct misconceptions.

“Media often encourages the disputing sides to revise their views and move closer to reducing conflict by showing where they are wrong. So when a party makes an accusation against another party that is simply not correct, you can show that. Don’t simply report it and not challenge it, you have to challenge when accusations are logged against the opposition that are not really true,” Butler said.

He added that another very important thing for journalists to do is to humanise their stories.

“If there’s conflict over a specific issue like corruption we try to humanise that by showing somebody whose been the victim of corruption, who has paid a bribe and is suffering economically because they were forced to pay a bribe,” he said.

Butler also told journalists in attendance that describing the problem in a different way can sometimes reduce tension, so editors and reporters should always look for a different angle that would still attract an audience to the story.

“Good journalism can help re-frame the conflict from various sides,” he said.

Newsday’s Editor-in-Chief Jones P Madeira said elections are the quest and conflict is the by-product of that quest. He said it was desirable that everything be done to eliminate conflict, but professional journalists do not set out to reduce conflict. “As a journalist you seek to present accurate and impartial news,” he said.