Janine di Giovanni; a war reporter’s human touch

Below is a comment sent to ABC’s Late Night Live team in response to an interview with French war reporter Janine di Giovanni.   Ms di Giovanni refers to Syrian society before the war.  The images aim to present a glimpse of that.

Friends in music shopIMG_1240IMG_5981IMG_5991IMG_5993IMG_5999IMG_6021IMG_6027IMG_6043IMG_6069MediaPlaying cardsSophisticatedA nun and visitor in Seidnayya, Syria


It is clear Janine de Giovanni understands the human cost of war, and I assume she understands the machinations of war, but she plays very safe. There is reference to Syria before the war (a beautiful multi-ethnic, multi-faith, modern society), but no clear reference to those who are trying to destroy that society and the means by which they are doing it.
When will people who are in the know condemn those who supply the weapons to the ‘rebels’ and pay people to fight, to kill.  And condemn those who stir up the darkest things in the human soul in order for people to carry out murder, believing they are justified to kill innocent people from a particular religious or ethnic group who do not share their beliefs, as the Nazis felt justified to kill innocent people.
Janine quotes someone in Bosnia: “In the name of God, do something to help us.”  This is the call people who support the Syrian armed opposition (=Islamist extremists,foreign jihadists, mercenaries?) make to the world.  It is often reported.  But the same call from the civilians and opposition in Syria who want peace and want to maintain their secular society is not heard in the western media.  Even Janine doesn’t report it, at least not clearly enough to be heard so it is heeded.
It is very easy to dissemble and lie for war.  War propaganda has a formula; it’s usually successful when followed. The people who push it are paid professionals. Simply demonise a leader and a group, present statistics and make accusations – the standard ones.  When necessary, create the evidence. On the other hand, to find the truth is hard work. Fatigue, despair and loneliness can strike the people who search for it.   A close friend from Sarajevo, a highly intelligent woman who was affected very personally by the war, is still trying to make sense of the war and the destruction of that multi-ethnic society, and she still suffers.  I interviewed her about it:
I would love to hear Janine take a clear stand against the  war in Syria.  To tell us what can be done for peace in Syria. Mother Agnes, whom you have interviewed, presented 10 Points towards Peace and Reconciliation, practical steps that can be taken for peace, against war.
Do reporters stay in their job, do they keep receiving awards, by being ‘balanced’?  By not challenging the stand of western governments? By denying us truths that might force peace that greater powers do not want?  Janine’s work is undeniably political, but could she maintain her distinguished career if she got Political?
Janine says she is fuelled by rage.  Rage about ‘injustice’ and ‘human suffering’.  Then she tells us about terrible torture. But of whom by who? And what was the point of telling us that if we don’t hear the whole story, build up the big picture?  The big picture as far as war is concerned always takes us to Peace.  If we have the chance to see and understand it.  How will telling us there is torture of someone by someone stop the war?  Janine presents herself  as a humanitarian, and in her heart and private life I am sure she is. But in her professional life, in my mind, she is an attractive, sophisticated human face to the machinery of war.
Susan Dirgham   susan.dirgham51@gmail.com
3 December 2012
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