“In a war zone, everything seems more alive, more real and important” / Villamedia

Celebrated CNN war correspondent Clarissa Ward, 42, released her memoir “On All Fronts” in 2021, which reflects her 20 years in business. It recently appeared in a Dutch translation titled “On All Fronts”. Journalist apprenticeship. Ward was in Holland for a few days to present the book. Vilamedia interviewed her about the dangers of disinformation, the familiarity with fear, and the myth of impartial journalism.

In the book, Ward quotes German-American Jewish philosopher Hannah Arendt, to articulate her concerns about fake news and prevailing information warfare: “The ideal target of totalitarianism is not a disguised Nazi or a committed communist, but the people for whom they are. The distinction between fact and fiction, right and wrong, no longer exists.

Why do journalists currently seem unable to remove this mistrust from a part of society?
The number of people who can speak is increasing, becoming more diverse and allowing us to look at common discourse in a new light. These are positive developments. But it also revealed things that have undermined the support and trust of some citizens in the mainstream media. Add to that the ease with which you can inject misinformation on social media and you’ve got a perfect storm. Moreover, citizens are bombarded with a massive supply of information and some only listen in their bubbles to opinions asserting their right.

Do you feel your job is to get these people out of those echo chambers?
“At the very least, I hope to expose people to ideas and opinions they don’t agree with. I usually notice that people on both sides of a debate get provoked by my reports and in the end it’s OK. Not because I want to provoke, but because it’s fundamental for people to hear things they don’t agree with.” It’s so ridiculous that as a society we have become so selective about what we want to hear. “This bothers me, so I’m going to shut this down.” Sorry, but this is the real world. This is the news. You don’t have to agree to it, but you have to see it.

In 2021 Ted Cruz caught your eye Twitter Because during your report in Kabul, you covered your hair according to the dress of the Taliban. He then criticized Cruz’s CNN Communications Twitter account. What do you say about this time when one of the biggest news organizations on social media was arguing with a senator who was even a presidential candidate?
Everything we once took for granted and took for granted suddenly seems uncertain. Journalists have been banned in a way that does not make our work easier. Suddenly we become the target and it feels fantastic. News organizations will respond every now and then. At the time of that battle we were in Afghanistan and the situation was really dangerous. Tragic events unfold and a real catastrophe unfolds, and a cruise targets a journalist on Twitter? ‘

Can you get used to fear?
“Yes, but it should not lead to carelessness. Fear may be given a place in the passenger seat, but never behind the wheel. Fear should never dictate your behavior in the front. Fear and panic are linked, this combination can lead to dangerous situations. Get used to Overwhelmed with fear at some point, but you need discipline to maintain a rational mind in making decisions.I am still afraid now and then, but I know when to act on it and when to ignore it.

I hope you don’t take this the wrong way, but has motherhood made you more anxious?
I understand why you are asking that. I am very careful because my biggest responsibility in this world is to take care of my two children. I also think that this job is different for the mother. But I probably shouldn’t say that at all. For example, it affects how long I want to be away from home. My heart will always be with my children, no matter what situation I find myself in. It also gave me more sympathy as a reporter. In my reporting, I place increasing emphasis on stories about mothers and children.

Before traveling, have you ever thought: This might be my last trip?
Honestly, I would never start a mission if I had that feeling. Before embarking on a journey, I identified for myself the risks that would be and what we have done and will do to minimize them.

You have seen the bombing of hospitals and the killing of children in Syria. How difficult is it to continue criticizing the Syrian opposition and the rebels?
When I see hospitals or smashed children being killed for no reason, I make it clear that these are war crimes and that these types of actions are carried out almost exclusively by the Syrian government and its friends. But at the same time, look at the opposition where jihadism thrives and also has atrocious acts on their conscience. But how can I view dead children from an impartial point of view? Should I say: Well, the Syrian regime says they are terrorists. So who knows? I wouldn’t be neutral about that, but that doesn’t mean I can’t take a critical look at the other side. this is important.’

You won many awards for your reporting on the war in Syria, but it hurt you mentally.
I was initially optimistic about the situation in Syria. This was mainly because of the signals I received from the Obama administration as well as from the international community. But also because of all the reporting that not only me, but my colleagues from other media outlets too. I think that this attention should ensure the possibility of alleviating the suffering of the Syrian people? But it was heartbreaking and really put me in a downward spiral, finding that no matter how many times I risked my life, how many mass graves I would discuss… (Silence) my work had no effect in the end on how it continued.’

How has this realization changed your business?
“I don’t hope anyone sees a difference in the things I do, but it basically affected me. The moment I started crawling out of the pit again, was the moment I realized: It’s not my job to end this war. What I need is to highlight This is war and identifying the perpetrators and giving people a platform to tell them what they are going through. I need to focus on my work, not on the consequences of the work. Because I can’t control it. I felt so liberated, both professionally and personally.

Have you fully recovered from what you lived in Syria?
“I have learned to love my life again. This was the biggest challenge I faced during my time in Syria. I came home every now and then and felt that I had no connection to real life anymore. I didn’t care anymore. At some point, I took a full time to recover. I started In yoga, I immersed myself in spirituality, started eating better, sleeping better and going to therapy. It all allowed me to decide to enjoy my life again and accept how privileged I am. I became happy again and saw the beauty of all those beautiful things around me. It took months, But I was able to make this transition.

Why are you drawn to wars and crises?
“In a war zone everything seems more alive, more real and more important. All this artificiality and emptiness in our daily lives in Europe and the United States is not important. It is good to stay in a place where everything that is immediately important is very important, and all that is not important It’s also totally irrelevant. I want to feel alive and living a meaningful life, and feel connected to people who are living through the darkest periods of their lives. I feel a responsibility to give these people a voice and be there for them.

An acquaintance of your mother brought you to CNN in Moscow. How have these perks affected your business? For example, do you feel compelled to take more risks?
I don’t think it’s about the biggest risk. In my family we often say: Expectations are high for those who have received too much. My parents, of course, did not force me to go to the front and investigate war crimes. But they have always instilled in me that I must work hard and seize the opportunities that come to me.

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