The Freelance Journalist Safety Principles

Updated:May 2015

The Freelance Journalist Safety Principles

On 12 February 2015, a coalition of major news companies and journalism organisations, known as A Culture of Safety (ACOS) Alliance, gathered to endorse worldwide protection standards for freelance journalists working on dangerous assignments. RPT has endorsed these standards as a first step towards concrete actions that will improve the safety of freelancers.

Over the last two years, killings, imprisonments and abductions of journalists have reached historic highs. These attacks represent a fundamental threat not just to individual news professionals, but to the practice of independent journalism.

Locally-based journalists face by far the largest threat and endure the vast majority of murders, imprisonments and abductions. We call on governments, combatants and groups worldwide to respect the neutrality of journalists and immediately end the cycle of impunity surrounding attacks on journalists. At the same time, the kidnapping and murder of reporters James Foley and Steven Sotloff brought to light the growing risks faced by international freelance journalists.  
The undersigned groups endorse the following safety principles and practices for international news organisations and the freelancers who work with them. We see this as a first step in a long-term campaign to convince news organisations and journalists to adopt these standards globally. In a time of journalistic peril, news organisations and journalists must work together to protect themselves, their profession and their vital role in global society.

For Journalists on Dangerous Assignments:

  1. Before setting out on any assignment in a conflict zone or any dangerous environment, journalists should have basic skills to care for themselves or injured colleagues.
  2. We encourage all journalists to complete a recognized news industry first aid course, to carry a suitable first-aid kit and continue their training to stay up-to-date on standards of care and safety both physical and psychological. Before undertaking an assignment in such zones, journalists should seek adequate medical insurance covering them in a conflict zone or area of infectious disease.
  3. Journalists in active war zones should be aware of the need and importance of having protective ballistic clothing, including armored jackets and helmets. Journalists operating in a conflict zone or dangerous environment should endeavor to complete an industry-recognized hostile environment course.
  4. Journalists should work with colleagues on the ground and with news organisations to complete a careful risk assessment before traveling to any hostile or dangerous environment and measure the journalistic value of an assignment against the risks.
  5. On assignment, journalists should plan and prepare in detail how they will operate including identifying routes, transport, contacts and a communications strategy with daily check-in routines with a colleague in the region or their editor. Whenever practical, journalists should take appropriate precautions to secure mobile and Internet communications from intrusion and tracking.
  6. Journalists should work closely with their news organisations, the organisation that has commissioned them, or their colleagues in the industry if acting independently, to understand the risks of any specific assignment. In doing so, they should seek and take into account the safety information and travel advice of professional colleagues, local contacts, embassies and security personnel. And, likewise, they should share safety information with colleagues to help prevent them harm.
  7. Journalists should leave next of kin details with news organisations, ensuring that these named contacts have clear instructions and action plans in the case of injury, kidnap or death in the field.

For News Organisations Making Assignments in Dangerous Places

  1. Editors and news organisations recognize that local journalists and freelancers, including photographers and videographers, play an increasingly vital role in international coverage, particularly on dangerous stories.
  2. Editors and news organisations should show the same concern for the welfare of local journalists and freelancers that they do for staffers.
  3. News organisations and editors should endeavor to treat journalists and freelancers they use on a regular basis in a similar manner to the way they treat staffers when it comes to issues of safety training, first aid and other safety equipment, and responsibility in the event of injury or kidnap.
  4. Editors and news organisations should be aware of, and factor in, the additional costs of training, insurance and safety equipment in war zones.  They should clearly delineate before an assignment what a freelancer will be paid and what expenses will be covered.
  5. Editors and news organisations should recognize the importance of prompt payment for freelancers. When setting assignments, news organisations should endeavor to provide agreed upon expenses in advance, or as soon as possible on completion of work, and pay for work done in as timely a manner as possible.
  6. Editors and news organisations should ensure that all freelance journalists are given fair recognition in bylines and credits for the work they do both at the time the work is published or broadcast and if it is later submitted for awards, unless the news organisation and the freelancer agree that crediting the journalist can compromise the safety of the freelancer and/or the freelancer’s family.
  7. News organisations should not make an assignment with a freelancer in a conflict zone or dangerous environment unless the news organisation is prepared to take the same responsibility for the freelancer’s wellbeing in the event of kidnap or injury as it would a staffer. News organisations have a moral responsibility to support journalists to whom they give assignments in dangerous areas, as long as the freelancer complies with the rules and instructions of the news organisation.
In conclusion, we, the undersigned, encourage all staff and freelance journalists and the news organisations they work with to actively join in a shared commitment to safety and a new spirit of collegiality and concern.

Signatory Organisations

2LIVES: Steven Joel Sotloff Memorial Foundation
ABC News
Afghan Journalists Safety Committee
Agence France-Presse
American Society of Journalists and Authors
Article 19
Association of European Journalists (Bulgaria)
The Associated Press
Bangladesh NGOs Network for Radio and Communication (BNNRC)
Belarusian Association of Journalists
British Broadcasting Corporation
Canadian Journalism Forum on Violence and Trauma
CBS News Center for Journalism and Public Ethics (Mexico)
CNN Committee to Protect Journalists
Danish Union of Journalists
Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma
Ena News Agency
European Federation of Journalists
Foreign Correspondents' Club (Hong Kong)
Foro de Periodismo Argentino
Free Press Unlimited
Frontline Club
Frontline Freelance Register
The Frontliner (Albania)
German Press Agency dpa
Global Journalist Security
Global Radio News
Globo TV
The GroundTruth Project
Guardian News and Media Group
International Center for Journalists
International Federation of Journalists
International News Safety Institute
International Press Institute
International Women's Media Foundation
Iraqi Journalists Rights Defense Association
James W. Foley Legacy Foundation
Journalistic Freedoms Observatory (Iraq)
Journalists in Danger (Kazakhstan)
Kyodo News
McClatchy DC
Medill School of Journalism
Miami Herald
National Press Club
National Press Photographers Association
National Union of Journalists-Philippines
NBC News
NOS News (Netherlands)
Online News Association
Overseas Press Club of America
Overseas Press Club Foundation
Pakistan Press Foundation
Periodistas de a Pie (Mexico)
PBS Frontline
Press Emblem Campaign (Switzerland)
Public Radio International's The World
Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting
Reporters Instructed in Saving Colleagues
Reporters Without Borders
Round Earth Media
Rory Peck Trust
Security First (UK)
Society of Professional Journalists
Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA)
Trauma Training for Journalists
Union of Journalists in Finland
Union of Journalists in Israel
Union of Journalists of South Sudan
USA Today
Vice News
Video News (Japan)
Women Photojournalists of Washington
Words After War
The World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA)
Zuma Press
News organisations, journalist associations or advocacy groups interested in joining these guidelines should contact David Rohde,
Image: Mstyslav Chernov, used here under a Creative Commons licence.
Created: February 2015

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