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Safety tips

GOLDEN RULE: NO STORY IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN YOUR LIFE

Risk assessment** 

      • 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?
      • Are you meeting someone who may be under surveillance or at risk of harm?

Communication safety net**

      • 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.

**Adapted from Rory Peck TrustIJNET/Sherri Riccardi and IJNET/Andrew Ford Lyons

Supply 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.
      • 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.

*On rare occasions, the story may be important enough to risk arrest. But discuss it with your editor ahead of time.

Stranger dangers

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.

Shooting

  • 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
  • Watch this video: “What to do in case of shooting nearby” from The Journalist Survival Guide/SKeyes Center for Media and Cultural Freedom at the Samir Kassir Foundation

Tear gas

    • 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.
    • Watch this video: “What to do in case of teargas from The Journalist Survival Guide/SKeyes Center for Media and Cultural Freedom at the Samir Kassir Foundation

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From The International Women’s Media Foundation:

“The only comprehensive security app available worldwide created specifically for journalists” with an automatic check-in system, alerts and SOS button.