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

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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 their being any finding 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 freelances 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 freelances 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 personnal 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
March 2002

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