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?
- 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.
- 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.
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.
- 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
- 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