The Complexity of Middle Eastern Conflicts and How To Report About Them, From A Foreigner's Perspective

Sent On: 
Mon, 2017-10-16
Newsletter Number: 

Op-Ed by Jasper A. Kiepe



If you are a journalist and a foreigner, you have to be careful when writing about conflicts in the Middle East and Northern Africa (MENA) region, not only because you are likely to suffer from repression and political pressure, but more importantly, so as to not get things wrong.


Conflicts are rarely exclusively political, religious, or ethical in nature. In fact, they often transcend the boundaries foreign analysts often lean on to make sense out of the region: national borders, political alliances, and/or religious communities. Moreover, conflicts are never between two binary parties, but between several competing forces that all share similarities and disagreements. Bilateral alliances between states are not ahistorical, but vary depending on the issue or controversy at hand.


Additionally, all of the region’s conflicts should be considered relative to their historical context. This equally applies to conflicts within one country, and to those between two or more countries. Most of the conflicts seem to be linked to each other in a way, and that makes the whole endeavor ridiculously complicated.


But, I am not only reporting about that: I am also exposing how easily journalists can become a target. A survey conducted by the international NGO Reporters Without Borders points out that almost all MENA countries are listed as “black countries,” which means that press freedom within them is in a “very serious situation.”


When reporting about any issue here, you have to be aware that almost every topic is politically sensitive in the MENA region. Even the most basic of reporting is very likely to offend at least one party or group in or outside the country, even if unintentionally, just because you did not follow their narrative.


Read the full op-ed here.





The commentary was written on the author’s own initiative and is based on his own experiences. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Arab-West Report’s editorial policy.


Image: The MENA Region ( as of 15 July 2011, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 3.0) This map does not reflect a position by Arab-West Report on the legal status of any country or territory or the delimitation of any frontiers.