Shalhoub bin Abdullah Al Shalhoub
I often travel to countries and communities that benefit from humanitarian projects implemented by the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Centre (KSrelief). As we navigate rugged roads and dangerous paths to document some of these projects and cover stories on the depths of human suffering around the world, we encounter societies in which despair and harsh conditions have sharpened their claws and fangs upon so many innocent people, the question that keeps haunting me is: where does the power of humanitarian media lie, and to what extent can we, through the media, effectively convey through our coverage of these stories the reality of what we have experienced firsthand?
I received at least thirty answers to this question from various audience members I spoke with after they had watched the television program “Insan”, which was presented by Fayez Al Malki and broadcasted on Saudi TV channels. In the emotions and reactions of the audience, I saw a reflection of my own feelings weeks ago when we were filming the program. I was moved by their deep understanding of the suffering of the people whose stories we documented, and by their happiness at the assistance, support, and aid being provided by KSrelief to those in need; it was as if the audience members themselves were directly involved in giving that support.
Did we successfully and effectively document and capture the realities of the lives of the people included in the program?
Did we achieve the desired impact and influence through effective humanitarian media coverage as compared with other styles of media?
The term “humanitarian media” has emerged in the past two decades as a distinct concept, focuses on providing media coverage of humanitarian situations, those of individuals or entire communities, featuring from the consequences of conflicts, natural disasters and other circumstances that violate people’s human rights, deprive them of basic needs or caused other significant negative impacts. The goal of humanitarian media coverage is to highlight the suffering, needs, and rights of those affected, as well as to report related facts surrounding these situations. It aims to stimulate local and international communities to show empathy, support, and assistance by donating, volunteering participating in other ways to provide support and improve the living conditions of people in crisis.
Indeed, humanitarian media is not driven by sensationalism or the quest for high ratings; it is not about fabricating events or exaggerating stories for dramatic effect. Every news article, field report, impactful image, or true story serves as a tool to evoke genuine and significant spontaneous reactions from its audience. This is the objective to which our media team at KSrelief constantly strives.
In our coverage of impactful stories about KSrelief’s project beneficiaries, it is always crucial for us to highlight the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s assistance to tens of millions of in-need people around the world in a way that attracts and resonates with both local and international audiences, taking into consideration their diverse cultures, perspectives and backgrounds. These projects, which to date number 2,580 in 94 countries worldwide, have been funded according to directives from the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, and HRH the Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman.
Our performance is accompanied by a full commitment to humanitarian ethics and guidelines that require us to respect the rights of vulnerable individuals. We are committed to not causing harm or hurting the feelings of people in need when they find themselves in a position of weakness. We also strictly adhere to safeguarding their privacy and ensure that we do not unintentionally pressure them for the sake of capturing a particular photograph, video, or statement. It is essential to consider and respect the cultural norms and practices of each country in advance and to refrain from overstepping those boundaries.
Everything we publish for both local and international media goes through various stages of preparation, production, review, and revision; all of our work is carried out as quickly as possible to ensure that what the audience sees is a reflection of what is happening in real-time, thus increasing the impact of the coverage. We also strive to raise awareness and knowledge about a particular issue, to encourage people to empathize with those in need, to donate to a particular cause or even to volunteer their time and expertise to help others. The impact of humanitarian media grows to contribute to shaping a broader positive public image of the Kingdom and its global humanitarian work through KSrelief; these effects are magnified by ongoing coverage of particular projects or humanitarian challenges. We seek to convey information about every humanitarian challenge and response through impactful coverage of events and how these events are experienced by those who are living them.
Humanitarian media and humanitarian action are two sides of the same coin. The purpose of humanitarian media is not merely to capture scenes and images here and there; it is a profession that has its own requirements, skills, and ethics. It also has its own health and psychological effects, and its own risks, of which we are well aware. It is a form of media that teaches us about credibility and commitment to all in need, no matter who or where they are. We have learned that a single image captured by a humanitarian photographer can save many lives and make a positive impact by initiating a campaign or project and bringing attention to the plight of those in urgent need of assistance. The image of a single tear rolling down the cheek of a child captured by a journalist in the farthest corner of the world can inform us about the magnitude of a problem that requires humanitarian intervention capable of changing an entire community’s reality; there are numerous examples in our field that demonstrate this fact.