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Improving the safety of journalists working in war zones or dangerous areas



Practical suggestions about insurance and protective clothing for freelance journalists

Reporters Without Borders, FreeLens-France and the French National Association of Journalists, Reporters, Photographers and Filmmakers (ANJRPC) organised a discussion meeting on the safety of journalists at the 14th international photojournalism festival Visa pour l’Image, in Perpignan (France), on 6 September 2002.

Practical suggestions made were:
-  An insurance agreement for freelance journalists to sign up for with Reporters Without Borders. Freelance journalists will at last be able to get insurance coverage they can easily afford. Reporter-photographers, journalists and freelances will be covered while on assignment in France or elsewhere for a maximum period of 90 days. Coverage will include three options. The first (_3 per day) will provide medical and other assistance. Options 2 and 3 (_6 and _7.50 a day) will in addition provide an indemnity for accidental death or disability. The payment is larger in option 3.

-  Borrowing bulletproof vests marked "Press" through Reporters Without Borders. These will be lent out on presentation of an ID and tickets to travel, as well as payment of a deposit. With them will be an emergency card with medical details of the journalist and who to contact in the event of any problems.

The three organisations also presented a document called "Information and recommendations on the security of journalists in dangerous areas in France and elsewhere," which contains practical advice for journalists going to such places.

The document is for distribution by the media to their staff or to freelance journalists working for them. It comes with the Practical Guide for Journalists, published by Reporters Without Borders and UNESCO, and supplies clear answers relating to the principles set out in the Charter for the Safety of Journalists Working in War Zones or Dangerous Areas, which has already been adopted by Reuters, France 2, RFI, RTL, Le Journal de Dimanche, Sud Ouest, Les DNA and other media.

The Charter makes a number of useful suggestions in the form of eight principles. These are a commitment by the media, public authorities and journalists to systematically seek ways to assess and reduce the risks involved, not forcing journalists to cover wars against their will, using only experienced journalists and providing adequate training and equipment, insurance against illness, repatriation, injury and death, post-mission psychological treatment if needed and legal protection.

The Charter was drawn up in March this year by Reporters Without Borders, with the help of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), representatives of the French foreign and defence ministries, the Council of Europe, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), UNESCO, French journalists’ trade unions (CFDT and SNJ) and the World Press Freedom Committee, as well as doctors and the IPS Bellini-Gutenberg insurance group.

Over the past 10 years, 531 journalists have died, nearly half of them in war zones and mainly in Algeria, Rwanda, the Balkans and Colombia. 73% of those killed while on dangerous assignments were deliberately targeted. The main victims were those working for news agencies and the written press (61% of all those killed). Local journalists accounted for 87% of the total killed. After paying tribute to their bravery, it is time we took steps to try to reduce the risks they run.




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