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Foreign correspondents must avoid stereotypes and political biases when covering other countries, EFE veteran Javier Garcia tells GBJ

Javier Garcia is a longtime EFE correspondent.
Javier Garcia: "You have to maintain objectivity." (Photo from X)

During more than two decades as a foreign correspondent, Javier Garcia says he has covered numerous countries and regions that receive negative media coverage in much of the world, including China, Russia, Venezuela and Serbia. The longtime reporter and editor for the Spanish news agency EFE also has covered conflict zones such as North Africa, Israel and the Palestinian territories where atrocities are alleged against government and insurgent forces on a regular basis.

To prepare for coverage of such areas, it is necessary to conduct extensive research but to avoid generalizing about an entire people or holding biases against a government in your reporting.

"I try to arrive in a country with my mind empty of prejudice and stereotype," he told Global Business Journalism students at Tsinghua University on May 30.

Javier Garcia is a veteran foreign correspondent for EFE
Javier Garcia: "The main point is to write a good story." (GBJ photo by Rick Dunham)

After arriving, it is important to develop sources – both official and unofficial. It is vital for reporters to get to know people beyond government officialdom, the international media echo chamber, and the expat community, he stressed.

"See the country, talk a lot with the people and see it with your own eyes," he said. "Try to reflect what you have seen and heard and not the stereotypes and prejudices."

Garcia, who recently concluded a stint as a journalism professor at Renmin University in Beijing, reflected on the three years he lived in Jerusalem – "one of the tensest cities in the world. You could feel the hate in everyday life. The tension exploded very often. It has no end."

By getting to know everyday people in a volatile city, Garcia could better cover the conflicts involving Israel and its Palestinian citizens and neighbors.

But Garcia noted that his careful neutrality has been tested at times. One particularly difficult moment came when a photographer who was close friend of his was killed by forces loyal to Libyan dictator Mohammar Qaddafi.

"You have to try to maintain objectivity," he said. "It's the most difficult task for a journalist."

Reporters are human beings, and every human being has feelings. But it is the job of reporters to set aside those feelings to share the facts with the audience. In the end, Garcia says, "the main point is to write a good story."


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