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Should We Be There?

Dan Damon Dan Damon | 12:52 UK time, Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Any journalist with a heart - and despite the cliche portrayal in TV dramas, most of us have them - reaches a point in a difficult story amidst people going through hard times when they ask themselves if they are getting in the way or just exploiting the suffering of others.

I know our teams in Japan will be asking themselves that as they cover the aftermath of the tsunami and earthquake. As a story the unfolding chaos is irresistible. Cars piled on houses, boats piled on bridges - the images are awful, in the original sense of that word.

The voices of the displaced and distraught are inspirations to our humanity.

But is gathering that material doing any good?

When I asked myself this question - on the hills of Northern Iraq amongst the dying after Saddam had chased the Kurds from their homes in 1991 or with the Iraqi mourners after suicide bombings more recently - I justified myself by saying "we are calling the powerful to account - if we weren't here they could do what they liked and no one would know."

Even in Japan, democratic and open as it appears to be during this crisis, the same rule applies. Without showing those images or recording those voices, the victims would not be seen or heard and those responsible for their welfare might not be so keen to act.


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