Organisations must do their bit to keep journalists safe

In their day-to-day work, journalists are exposed to a number of threats, ranging from physical violence to cyber attacks or online harassment. What can news organisations do to keep them safe?

by Simone Flueckiger | April 5, 2019

“The landscape of threats to journalists and news organisations changes constantly and our awareness and capacity to respond to new risks have to keep up,” says Javier Garza Ramos, a journalist and safety advisor for the World Editors Forum.

“We need tools to deal with our security situation in a consistent way. Many journalists have undertaken individual risk assessments and security protocols, but we need an institutional approach. Like all chains, safety in a newsroom is as strong as its weakest links. A handful of journalists trained to recognise and deal with risk will not be of much help to a news organisation if their colleagues are not in sync.”

In order to protect the people that work for them, news organisations need to identify the main threats they are exposed to, and implement comprehensive safety plans and protocols to be able to respond to these dangers in any given situation.

One resource that aims to start a conversation around safety issues, and help news organisations implement or review safety practices is the News Organization Safety Self-Assessment. It was launched this week as a collaboration between the ACOS Alliance and the Committee to Protect Journalists, the Dart Center for Journalism & TraumaFree Press UnlimitedFrontline Freelance Register, the International Federation of JournalistsInternational News Safety InstituteInternational Media SupportInternational Press Institute, the International Women’s Media Foundation and the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers.

“Keeping safety protocols relevant is a major challenge for most news organisations,” says Elisabet Cantenys, Executive Director of the ACOS Alliance.

“Here we offer a practical and useful tool, which we hope will take us a step closer towards embedding a culture of safety.”

With the help of key questions and guideline notes featured in the handbook, news organisation can identify where their weaknesses and strengths lie in relation to the security of all individuals working for them. It pays special attention to aspects that are often neglected in organisational policies and protocols, such as gender issues, mental health care, digital security needs, and working with freelancers and fixers.

The topic of journalist safety will be further explored at the World News Media Congress, June 1 – 3 in Glasgow, as part of the Editors’ Safety Workshop hosted by Elisabet Cantenys.

The session will provide useful tools for news organisations and editorial teams to review and improve safety practices and protocols that affect both the newsroom and journalists out in the field. Focusing on “easy wins”, the workshop will look at security practices that can be implemented with minimal cost and rapid deployment. Topics that will be addressed include office security, best practices for commissioning dangerous assignments, and key elements for creating a robust safety policy and set of protocols.

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