Risking body and soul as a foreign journalist

Committee to Protect Journalists on growing threats to the people who bring us the news:

In the 1990s, journalists’ deaths in the Balkans and Africa underscored “the need for a systematic approach to journalists’ physical security,” said Bruce Shapiro, executive director of the Columbia University-based Dart Center for Journalism & Trauma. The shock of the September 11 attacks and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq made the journalist security field, at least for a time, a growth industry.

Today, the need for safety preparation has never seemed greater. Traditional threats to journalists persist at the same time that new dangers are either emerging or becoming apparent. Sexual assault, civil unrest, organized crime, digital security, and trauma are all recognized challenges to press freedom and safety, and leading news organizations are either modifying the military-oriented training courses, or developing their own security practices and curriculum. Still, money for security training is limited, and employers struggle to adapt their preparation to the myriad dangers. “We’ve quickly had to change our view of security,” said David Verdi, vice president of worldwide news-gathering for NBC News.

“We need a more nuanced approach,” said Judith Matloff, a veteran foreign correspondent and independent journalist security trainer who recently became director of the North American branch of the London-based nonprofit International News Safety Institute. “What is the best training for a situation? We need to do assessments of needs, as opposed to taking the approach that there is one solution for all.”

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One area in which many international news organizations have provided better support for journalists in recent years is coping with stress and trauma. Years ago, said Al-Jazeera’s Allan, “I think every journalist was supposed to suck it up.” Allan, a journalist of 30 years, said attitudes toward trauma are different today. “There are signs, and you can help people,” she said.
Text and images ©2024 Antony Loewenstein. All rights reserved.

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