The figures are grim for our colleagues around the world. Since 1992, more than 1,300 journalists have been killed, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. Well over 700 of them have been murdered with impunity; that is, no killer was ever brought to justice. And today, more than 250 journalists are in prison worldwide, many for doing what would be considered routine reporting in much of the world.
The problem, moreover, appears to be growing worse.The latest data show attacks and killings at near record levels. Although high profile killings of Western journalists — like Marie Colvin or Daniel Pearl — get international attention, the vast majority of fatalities are staff members of local media. And the killings are the tip of the iceberg. Beatings, kidnappings, imprisonment, and threats against journalists are far more numerous, and can be just as effective at silencing them.
Threats come from many directions: from drug cartels or rebel groups; autocratic governments or ethnic enemies; stray bullets or terrorist bombs. Indeed, it may be the widely disparate nature of the threats that makes a “one size fits all” solution so elusive.
Half a dozen professional organizations are actively engaged in the problem, as are representatives of major multilateral organizations, among them the United Nations and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
As part of the Global Investigative Journalism Network’s series of Resource Pages, we are publishing this brief guide to safety for those working in the news media. We begin with links to several of the key guides available on the topic, followed by a directory of major international press freedom and safety groups that concern themselves, in some fashion, with the issue of violent attacks on journalists. Read this story in Spanish.
Guides for Staying Safe and Covering Conflict
Committee for the Protection of Journalists’ Safety Kit: CPJ’s four-part Safety Kit issued in 2018 provides journalists and newsrooms with basic safety information on physical, digital and psychological safety resources and tools. Español, Français, العربية, Русский, Somali, ارسی, Português, 中文, Türkçe, မြန်မာဘာသာ.
Journalism Security Toolkit: IJNet in 2015 released this extensive online guide that covers physical safety, digital security, and working in dangerous environments.
This useful list of eight guides on media security was also compiled by IJNet, drawn from such groups as the Committee to Protect Journalists, Reporters without Borders, and the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma. Several are available in multiple languages. Also worth a look: Abraji’s Security Manual for Protest Coverage.
Freelance Journalist Safety Principles: These guidelines were issued in February 2015 by a coalition of major news companies and journalism organizations. Translations are available in Arabic, French, Hebrew, Persian, Russian, Spanish and Turkish.
Safety Handbook for Women Journalists: This 95-page guide aimed at women journalists is heavy on conflict zones and war reporting, but includes sections on risk assessment, online harassment, and travel safety.
Online Harassment of Journalists: Attack of the Trolls: Reporters Without Borders (RSF) enlisted its worldwide network of correspondents in 12 bureaus to help shed light on the latest danger for journalists – threats and insults on social networks that are designed to intimidate them into silence. RSF put forward 25 recommendations for governments, international organizations, online platforms, media companies and advertisers to respond to these virulent online campaigns. See GIJN summary.
The Online Harassment Field Manual by Pen America contains “effective strategies and resources that writers, journalists, their allies, and their employers can use to defend against cyber hate and fight online abuse.”
Journalism Safety and Security Groups
A Culture of Safety (ACOS) Alliance was formed in late 2015 by major news companies and journalism organizations to improve worldwide freelance protection standards. The group is launching security information sharing, training, insurance and communications initiatives.
Article 19: Based in London. Article 19 monitors, researches, publishes, lobbies, campaigns, sets standards and litigates on behalf of freedom of expression wherever it is threatened. Its work includes campaigns to protect journalists from threats to their lives, families and livelihoods.
Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ): Based in New York. Founded in 1981 and managed by a board of directors of journalists, CPJ produces annual country reports, conducts international missions, and maintains its Impunity Index, among many other aggressive activities. CPJ’s Journalist Assistance Program provides legal, medical, and relocation assistance to journalists at risk, along with support for families of slain and imprisoned journalists.
Global Journalist Security: Founded in 2011, it is a Washington-based consulting firm that offers security training and advice to media workers, citizen journalists, human rights activists, and NGO staff. The group also trains security forces in developed nations as well as in emerging democracies that aspire “to meet international press freedom and human rights standards how to safely interact with the press.”
Inter American Press Association (IAPA): Based in Miami, FL. Founded in the late 1940s; now includes 1,400 member publications from Canada to Chile. It monitors and advocates for press freedom throughout the hemisphere; special programs include a Rapid Response Unit deployed when a journalist is killed, twice-yearly reports on press freedom issues in each country, and publication of a “Risk Map” to guide journalists working in the most dangerous countries. IAPA also operates its own separate “Impunity Project,” with detailed information on journalist murders throughout the region.
International Federation of Journalists (IFJ): Based in Brussels. Launched, in its modern form, in 1952, IFJ describes itself as the world’s largest association of journalists. It monitors press freedom issues and advocates for journalists’ safety and was a founder of the International News Safety Institute.
International Freedom of Information Exchange (IFEX): Perhaps the most visible role of this Toronto-based organization is as a source of information; it operates what it calls “the world’s most comprehensive free expression information service,” with a weekly e-mail newsletter, a regular digest of articles related to press freedom, and “action alerts” from members around the globe. It has more than 90 member organizations in more than 50 countries. In 2011 it established November 23 as International Day to End Impunity.
International News Safety Institute (INSI): Based in Brussels. Created in 2003 as a result of an initiative by the IFJ and IPI, it describes itself as “a unique coalition of news organizations, journalist support groups and individuals exclusively dedicated to the safety of news media staff working in dangerous environments.” It conducts training, issues safety tips and manuals, and monitors journalists’ casualties of all kinds, whether violent attacks or accidents.
International Press Institute (IPI): Created in 1950, the Vienna-based IPI calls itself “a global network of editors, media executives and leading journalists.” A founder of INSI, it monitors press freedom with an annual World Press Freedom Review, conducts regular missions to countries where it is at risk, and tracks attacks on journalists.
Reporters Without Borders (Reporters Sans Frontières, or RSF): Founded in 1985 and based in Paris, RSF gathers information on press freedom violations and sponsors international missions as needed. Among other activities it provides financial assistance to journalists or news organizations to help defend themselves, and to the families of imprisoned journalists, and works to improve the safety of journalists, especially in war zones.
World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA): Founded in 1948 and based in Paris, WAN represents more than 18,000 publications on five continents. In addition to providing support and information on basic industry issues, WAN has a special focus on press freedom, monitoring attacks on journalists, and “conducts long-term campaigns and targeted events with the aim to raise public awareness about critical press freedom matters.”
Free Press Unlimited: the Dutch media development NGO has Reporters Respond, an international emergency fund that provides direct assistance to journalists and media outlets, enabling them to resume work as quickly as possible when faced with local obstruction. The group aims to respond to requests within 24 hours.
Kality Foundation: This Sweden-based fund provides financial assistance to reporters and photographers worldwide who are imprisoned, persecuted, or forced into exile because of their profession.
Lifeline Fund: The Lifeline Embattled CSO Assistance Fund provides emergency financial assistance to civil society groups under threat or attack, including journalist organizations. Backed by 17 governments and foundations, Lifeline offers short-term emergency grants for such expenses as medical help, legal representation, trial monitoring, temporary relocation, security, and equipment replacement.
Rory Peck Trust: Based in London, The Rory Peck Trust provides practical assistance and support to freelance newsgatherers and their families worldwide, to raise their profile, promote their welfare and safety, and to support their right to report freely and without fear. Programs include a Freelance Assistance Programme, Freelance Resources, and the Rory Peck Awards.