GOLDEN RULE: NO STORY IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN YOUR LIFE
- Are you covering a high-risk event or visiting a high-risk location?
- What are the risks? E.g. Injury? Arrest?
- Are you at increased risk because of your occupation, gender, age, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation?
- Are you meeting someone who may be under surveillance or at risk of harm?
- Also see: Committee to Protect Journalism’s 2020 Safety Advisory & Tips
Communication safety net
From IJNET/Andrew Ford Lyons
- Identify a contact buddy on the outside to check on you and respond to a call for help
- Set check-in times with that buddy, discuss whether you’ll be in contact via phone/email/text, and devise a plan for what to do if s/he doesn’t hear from you.
- Agree on code words to assure your buddy that you’re talking freely.
- Draw up a list of hospitals and police stations near the location you will be so your buddy can find you if you’re injured or arrested.
- Provide the buddy with your itinerary and emergency contact list.
- Press ID and government-issued ID
- Health insurance card
- Phone, phone-recharger + throwaway phone for backup
- If going into an area of unrest, ask your news organization for safety gear and first aid supplies. If that’s not available, pack your own: e.g. water bottle, cloth, plastic bag for tear gas contamination.
Dealing with police
- Police have authority to restrict access by the public, including reporters, for public safety or law enforcement purposes. Respect it.
- Police do not have authority to order reporters to stop recording, erase recordings or hand over their equipment. Assert your rights.
- Police do have guns and power to arrest. They sometimes exercise their power illegally. If, after asserting your rights, they threaten you with physical harm or arrest, do not resist. Cooperate and file a complaint when you’re out of harm’s way. (On rare occasions, the story may be important enough to risk arrest. But discuss when, why and how with your editor ahead of time.)
- Decide — with your editor, if working for a news organization — how to respond to potential encounters with police before going out on assignment. Make sure your key contact knows the plan.
From “What to do in case of tear gas,” The Journalist Survival Guide / SKeyes Center for Media and Cultural Freedom at the Samir Kassir Foundation
- Symptoms: stinging and burning of eyes, nose, mouth and skin, increased salivation, difficulty in breathing, gagging, vomiting, disorientation
- Move upwind, cover your face and exposed skin, preferably with a wet piece of cloth.
- Don’t touch your skin, other people or things while contaminated.
- If your eyes are affected, flush them with clean water.
- As soon as possible, remove your clothing and wash yourself down.
- Don’t panic. The symptoms — stinging, burning, breathing trouble, vomiting, confusion — are temporary.
Meet in a public space or at your office. If at all possible, bring a partner – reporter, photographer, driver. Tell key contacts where you are meeting and when. Special to high-crime zones: Try to arrange meetings in the morning or early afternoon.
From “What to do in case of shooting nearby,” The Journalist Survival Guide / SKeyes Center for Media and Cultural Freedom at the Samir Kassir Foundation
- Take cover immediately behind the nearest object that hides you and, even better, provides a barrier to bullets — rock, tree, concrete, etc. (Note: bullets can go through plasterboard walls and vehicles; they are better than being in the open but stay as low and small as you can.)
- Stay under cover until 10 to 20 minutes after firing stops — and resist the temptation to peek at what’s going on