Ethics of war: How to communicate about controversial topics?

We often hear the word controversial, but what is actually considered a controversial topic?

Controversial topics refer to issues that are highly debated or contested, often due to differing values or beliefs

Controversial topics can vary from country to country or between different cultures. They can include: abortion, LGBTQ+ rights, capital punishment, human euthanasia, artificial intelligence, vaccination and so on.

In the context of war, controversial topics can include the ethics of war photography, the legitimacy of military violence and the impact of military intervention on civilians. 

Effective communication around controversial topics requires a nuanced understanding of the issues involved, as well as an ability to engage in respectful and constructive dialogue with those who hold differing opinions. It also involves taking steps to avoid overloading audiences with graphic or emotionally charged imagery that can desensitise them to the human impact of conflict. Taking a clear stance is important in the process of leading by example. SCI would always speak out, for example, against military interventions, given their disastrous effects on civilians which go against human rights and humanitarian law, as well as for a culture of peace.


  • Use a variety of media: Instead of relying solely on images, use a variety of media to convey your message. This could include text, audio, or video.
  • Provide context: Provide context for the images/message to help viewers understand the situation and the people involved. This could include captions, descriptions, or additional information on the situation.
  • Stick to the facts and question your own bias: to avoid creating sides that shouldn’t exist and to avoid spreading misconceptions.
  • Be respectful: Be respectful of the people in the images and their situations. Avoid using images that are sensationalised or disrespectful.
  • Add a trigger warning in the beginning, if images or the message are particularly distressing. Especially with topics like war, depictions of violence, suicide, abuse, sexual violence.
  • Consider the audience: Consider the audience for your message and their level of emotional maturity. Use images that are appropriate for your audience and avoid overwhelming them with too many graphic images.
  • Provide resources for support: If you are sharing images of a traumatic event or situation, provide resources for viewers to seek support or assistance. This could include links to mental health resources or hotlines.