By Yazeed Kamaldien
(South African journalist Yazeed Kamaldien, a member of the IARJ Steering Committee, talks to the courageous Nigerian journalist Prince Charles Dickson about his work amid the conflict in his homeland. Dickson is the editor of burningpot.com, an independent online news service. His work is widely used in mainstream and online news outlets.)
Q: Tell us more about your journalism experience.
A: I have gone through the ropes, from cub reporter/correspondent to news editor, group editor, and online editor. I have expertise in conflict, religion and investigative reporting. I have become an expert on religion and conflict in northern Nigeria and am a respected news source on this volatile region. I have worked on several major news stories and currently maintain several blogs while working as a freelancer. I produce several editorial columns published in online and mainstream media.
Q: Have you reported on Christian-Muslim tensions in Nigeria?
A: In Nigeria, thousands of lives have been lost as a result of ethno-religious and political killings. I have written several reports and stories on these divides, trying to highlight the issues as objectively as possible.
Q: Is the media reporting on tensions between Christians and Muslims an accurate representation of the reality or is there a lot of unbalanced and sensationalist reporting on this issue?
A: It is difficult to find balanced and objective stories devoid of sensationalism on this topic. Journalists and writers also have limited knowledge of other religions.
Q: Why do you think religion reporting is important now?
A: With growing misconceptions, it is important to know the truth from falsehood. Half-truths fester religious tensions.
Q: Does the media industry support religion reporting or is there ignorance on this?
A: Nigerian media is very ignorant about religion reporting and a lot needs to be done to support it, given the role that it can play in global peace efforts.
Q: What do you hope that the International Association of Religion Journalists (IARJ) achieves in the media sector?
A: It should provide a platform for learning and opportunities for mutually shared knowledge to reduce perceived tensions. I believe that there is a need for continuous learning and a coming together of journalists covering religion, exchanging experiences and equally setting a religion reporting agenda.