On the Safety of Journalists covering Riots and Violent Clashes (the Makati Standoff) – dedicated to the memory of photojournalist Dennis Sabangan

On the Safety of Journalists covering Riots and Violent Clashes

(the Makati Standoff)

(Dedicated to the memory of photojournalist and U.P. Diliman journalism senior faculty

Dennis Sabangan 

(featured photo of Dennis Sabangan shot by Romy Portugal, published by the European Pressphoto Agency, used here non-commercially for academic purposes)

         Yesterday’s violent clash between the protesters and the police in the Makati standoff resulted in serious injuries not only on the participants but also on reporters covering the siege, as well as Makati government employees and bystanders.
International conventions and standards require that the management of media organizations (the heads of news organizations, editors, news directors, executive producers, publishers, owners, etc). should ensure that their reporters, camera-handlers, assistants, producers, production assistants, drivers, etc. have adequate gear to protect themselves in case the skirmish turns violent. Their gear should carry the press emblem in big, bold letters that visibly and properly identify them as members of the news media. The reporters should be briefed on where they should position themselves should rocks, bullets, pellets, chairs, baton, etc start flying in all directions.  The news team and their assistants should also have the necessary experience, briefing and training on the coverage of riots and unruly protests.
      If management refuses to provide any means and measures for the safety of the news team, the union should demand that the news organization adhere to international conventions on the safety of journalists covering violent clashes.

      Principle 5 of the “Charter for the Safety of Journalists Working in War Zones or Dangerous Areas” provides: “Principle 5 – Equipment. Editors should provide special correspondents working in dangerous areas with reliable safety equipment (bullet-proof jackets, helmets and, if possible, armoured vehicles), communication equipment (locator beacons) and survival and first-aid kits.”.  Principle 6  of said Charter provides: “Principle 6 – Insurance. Journalists and their assistants working in war zones or dangerous areas should have insurance to cover illness, repatriation, disability and loss of life. Media management should take all necessary steps to provide this before sending or employing personnel on dangerous assignments. They should strictly comply with all applicable professional conventions and agreements.”

The Charter is based on the following policy and rationale: “Because of the risks they run to keep the public informed, media workers, journalists and their assistants (whether permanent staff or freelance) working in war zones or dangerous areas are entitled to basic protection, compensation and guarantees from their employers, though protection must never be taken to mean supervision by local military and governmental authorities. Media management also have their own responsibility to make every effort to prevent and reduce the risks involved.”

In particular also, Principle 1 provides: “Risks to be taken by staff or freelance journalists, their assistants, local employees and support personnel require adequate preparation, information, insurance and equipment.”

Here is the “Charter for the Safety of Journalists Working in War Zones or Dangerous Areas” in full:

1dennisprofile

(profile photo of Dennis Sabangan in his twitter account at twitter.com/epadennis , used here non-commercially for academic purposes)

“Charter for the Safety of Journalists
Working in War Zones or Dangerous Areas

“The safety of journalists working on dangerous assignments is not always guaranteed, even if international law provides adequate protection on paper, because warring parties these days are showing less and less respect for that law. News-gatherers cannot get assurances from belligerents that they will be fully protected.
“Because of the risks they run to keep the public informed, media workers, journalists and their assistants (whether permanent staff or freelance) working in war zones or dangerous areas are entitled to basic protection, compensation and guarantees from their employers, though protection must never be taken to mean supervision by local
military and governmental authorities. Media management also have their own responsibility to make every effort to prevent and reduce the risks involved.
“The following eight principles shall apply:
“Principle 1 – Commitment
“The media, public authorities and journalists themselves shall systematically seek ways to assess and reduce the risks in war zones or dangerous areas by consulting each other and exchanging all useful information. Risks to be taken by staff or freelance journalists, their assistants, local employees and support personnel require adequate
preparation, information, insurance and equipment.
“Principle 2 – Free will
“Covering wars involves an acceptance by media workers of the risks attached and also a personal commitment which means they go on a strictly voluntary basis. Because of the risks, they should have the right to refuse such assignments without explanation and without there being any finding of unprofessionnal conduct. In the field, the assignment can be terminated at the request of the reporter or the editors after each
side has consulted the other and taken into account their mutual responsibilities. Editors should beware of exerting any kind of pressure on special correspondents to take additional risks.
“Principle 3 – Experience
“War reporting requires special skills and experience, so editors should choose staff or freelancers who are mature and used to crisis situations. Journalists covering a war for the first time should not be sent there alone, but be accompanied by a more experienced reporter. Teamwork in the field should be encouraged. Editors should systematically
debrief staff when they return so as to learn from their experiences.
“Principle 4 – Preparation
“Regular training in how to cope in war zones or dangerous areas will help reduce the risk to journalists. Editors should inform staff and freelancers of any special training offered by nationally or internationally qualified bodies and give them access to it. All journalists called upon to work in a hostile environment should have first-aid training.
Every accredited journalism school should familiarise its students with these issues.
“Principle 5 – Equipment
“Editors should provide special correspondents working in dangerous areas with reliable safety equipment (bullet-proof jackets, helmets and, if possible, armoured vehicles), communication equipment (locator beacons) and survival and first-aid kits.
“Principle 6 – Insurance
“Journalists and their assistants working in war zones or dangerous areas should have insurance to cover illness, repatriation, disability and loss of life. Media management should take all necessary steps to provide this before sending or employing personnel on dangerous assignments. They should strictly comply with all applicable professional conventions and agreements.
“Principle 7 – Psychological counselling
“Media management should ensure that journalists and their assistants who so desire have access to psychological counselling after returning from dangerous areas or reporting on shocking events.
“Principle 8 – Legal protection
“Journalists on dangerous assignments are considered civilians under Article 79 of Additional Protocol I of the Geneva Conventions, provided they do not do anything or behave in any way that might compromise this status, such as directly helping a war, bearing arms or spying. Any deliberate attack on a journalist that causes death or
serious physical injury is a major breach of this Protocol and deemed a war crime.”
-Reporters Without Borders — Reporters sans frontieres
March 2002

Advertisements

comments are welcome anytime (the spam-catcher however detains without charges any post with many links, no bail recommended, blog admin has to approve release)

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s