Journalists are adapting to being targets: here’s how

Reporters practicing CPR on dummy (© AP Images)
Journalists give first aid care to a dummy as part of their training to report from conflict zones. (© AP Images)

For most journalists, rushing into places that others are fleeing isn’t a search for thrills, it’s a job requirement. But the steady decline in press freedom and safety is prompting those who want to report in conflict areas to develop more than good investigative and reporting skills. Now it’s also essential they learn how to survive.

Through the S.A.F.E. (Securing Access to Free Expression) initiative, the Washington-based nonprofit International Research & Exchanges Board has opened five regionally based security resource centers that are training journalists in skills that could save their lives.

With help from the State Department, about 300 journalists have been trained by their local colleagues in things like physical safety, countersurveillance, dealing with violent crowds, emergency first aid, digital security at work and in the field, and psychosocial care.

In a conference on journalist security at the State Department in 2015, Secretary Kerry acknowledged “roughly two-thirds of the reporters who die violently are killed because of, not despite, their profession. … And in most cases, the perpetrators are not caught.”

Journalists can and should ask about accessing essential supplies; developing situational awareness; what to do or say if they are stopped, searched or abducted; and other concerns, he said.

“If I were about to drop into an uncertain environment in order to try to cover the story, I’d sure as heck want to know as much as I could,” Kerry said.

The State Department has supported training for journalists in conflict zones through its TechCamp program. A two-day conference in New York was organized to connect journalists with technologists, nongovernmental organizations, and government and U.N. officials to create tangible solutions to protect journalists.

Nearly 90 participants from 19 countries attended the conference and designed solutions addressing the complexities of working in conflict zones.