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"There’s never been a more important time to respect and honour freelancers."

Freelancers do what they do because we all need to know.

We’ve been helping, speaking and writing about freelancers for almost twenty years. And now it seems very strange that we’ve had to work so hard to justify how much they matter. In 1993, when Rory Peck was killed, no-one was talking about freelancers. No-one was talking about safety, security, responsibility.  International freelancers?  Local freelancers? Who cared….?   
But everything seems to have changed. Now - and for the worst of reasons - everyone is talking about freelancers and their safety.  And that can only be a very good thing.
In September this year, we had the opportunity to present our work in New York, during which legendary NBC journalist Tom Brokaw said, “We couldn’t exist day to day during a hot time – and we’re living in a very hot time right now – without the material that’s provided to us by freelance journalists and the integrity that they bring to their craft. They have a great social conscience, they have a great journalistic calling ….they’ve been on the cutting edge of some of the most important breaking stories of our time – not just in the trouble spots but in the fabric of life around the world as well.”
“In the fabric of life" - that’s exactly it. What would we know of some situations and some countries if freelancers weren’t there getting information out?  Where would we be without their work? And actually - where would they be if there were no Rory Peck Trust?  
I used to think that there may come a time when we’re needed less – but we’re way off that … we’re needed more than ever before. And differently. Freelancers are now coming to us not only for help in a crisis, but help in preventing or anticipating the crisis – and help in moving beyond it.  So we have a history – and we have a future.
But speeches aren’t supposed to be about thanks. Well – why not? It’s not a duty to thank our supporters.  It’s a necessity. Because without you, how could we do our work? And I truly believe that if the Rory Peck Trust wasn’t here –someone would re-invent us.
So thank you to new funders, the Evan Cornish Foundation, and the United Nations Democracy Fund who are supporting a long-planned project to help freelance journalists in Libya.  As you’ve seen tonight, we help all freelancers, whether they’re working in broadcast, print or online. Therefore I’m especially delighted to welcome new supporters Newsquest Media Group, Telegraph Media Group and a rather cool organisation that’s been going since the time of Charles Dickens – the Printing Charity.
We applaud the generosity of those who have committed to the Trust for the long haul:  BBC, Channel 4, CNN, Hexagon, ITN, NBC, Reuters, Sky News and Sony, we thank Associated Press for sponsoring the brochure each year,  and those whose contribution to our work and development has been so vital – the Correspondents Fund, the Open Society Foundations and the Oak Foundation.

Freelancers do what they do – because we all need to know.  And the Trust does what it does – which is to help them in every practical way we can.
Finally, I said that everything seems to have changed. But perhaps nothing really has.
Whatever it is that propels freelancers into the centre of the whirlpool has not changed. And wherever that whirlpool is, freelancers will always be there. Rory Peck was there. James Foley was there. Stephen Sotloff  was there. John Cantlie is there. And, still, Austin Tice. Many who you’ll never hear about are there – wherever “there” is.
And every single person here tonight has some connection to freelancers whether they’re part of what you do, who you are – OR what you know. 
There’s never been a more important time to respect and honour them.

This is an edited version of the speech Tina gave at the Rory Peck Awards Ceremony, 2014.

Top image: Tina speaking at this year's ceremony with Lindsey Hilsum © Hannah Maule-Ffinch
Bottom: With this year's finalists  © Hannah Maule-Ffinch

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