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The Call for Freelance Journalist Safety Principles is growing

The Call for Freelance Journalist Safety Principles is growing

RPT director, Tina Carr, and Head of Programmes Elisabet Cantenys were in New York this month as part of a group taking forward the global safety principles for freelancers launched in February 2015. Here's the release announcing the meeting's key achievements.  

NEW YORK -- A foundation honoring the memory of murdered freelance journalist Steven J. Sotloff and four major U.S. television news networks signed onto the Freelance Journalist Safety Principles at a meeting at the Columbia School of Journalism in New York on September 30th and October 1st. 

The group, made up of news organisations, freelance reporters and non-profit journalism groups to promote safety and named A Culture of Safety (ACOS) Alliance, also announced unprecedented initiatives to share security information; provide subsidised safety training to freelancers; conduct a census of freelancers that could reduce their insurance costs and better inform journalism students of grants and other resources available to freelancers. 

The 2Lives/Steven J. Sotloff Memorial Foundation, ABC News, CBS News, CNN and NBC News were among ten new signatories to the safety principles announced at the meeting. Article 19, Global Radio News, Kyodo News, PayDesk and the World Association of Newspapers (WAN-IFRA) signed on as well. "We believe in this initiative,” said Frank Urrutia, a member of the 2Lives board who attended the Columbia meeting. “It is worthy of recognition and support."

Since the safety principles were unveiled in February, more than 80 organisations have signed onto them, including the overwhelming majority of global wire services, non-profit journalism groups, U.S. television networks and the Frontline Freelance Register, a London-based group that represents over 500 freelancers who regularly cover conflict.

" This initiative marks a turning point,” said Tina Carr, Director of the Rory Peck Trust, an organisation dedicated to the support of freelance journalists worldwide.”The combined efforts of such an experienced and diverse group, with its clear aim and concrete objectives, will have a significant effect on the future safety of freelance journalists. After 20 years of helping freelancers in dangerous situations, we are very excited by this."

The initiatives announced at the meeting, which was hosted by the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma, included:
  •  Agence France Press is leading an effort to conduct the first-ever census of freelancers worldwide to determine if a freelancer insurance pool can be created. David Millikin, Agence France Press’s North America Director, is heading the effort.
  • BuzzFeed is leading an effort to create the first-ever private, informal group where security directors from U.S. news organisations can confidentially share security information with one another. Freelancers will have access as well to the information, which would include immediate concerns and new developments in a given region. The initiative is being headed by BuzzFeed ‘s Global Director of Security Jason Reich.
  • The Committee to Protect Journalists announced that Levick Communications, a Washington, D.C. based communication firm, has agreed to provide pro bono communications assistance to the safety principles.
  • The Frontline Freelance Register is supporting freelance journalists in their work and proposing a set of standards for training journalists that will ensure freelancers are adequately trained and more employable.
  • The International Press Institute, a Vienna-based press freedom group, will encourage news organisations worldwide to sign onto the safety principles as it prepares for IPI’s March 2016 World Congress in Doha. John Yearwood, the Miami Herald’s foreign editor and IPI’s Executive Board Chairman, will lead the effort.
  • Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is leading an effort to distribute to U.S. journalism schools a 17-page inventory RSF has compiled that lists where freelancers can receive safety training, medical insurance, travel grants and other support. Delphine Halgand, RSF’s U.S. Director, is heading the initiative. 
  • Reuters announced that Hawthorne Proactive, the security firm that trains Reuters journalists worldwide, will provide a five-day Hazardous Environment and First Aid Training (HEFAT) course in Belfast, Northern Ireland for  14 freelancers in November. Reuters is covering all costs of the training – accommodation, food and the course itself – but not travel to Belfast.  The Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting and other groups have offered to cover travel costs for applicants who can demonstrate a clear financial need but the budget is limited. Applications can be submitted here. 
  • The Rory Peck Trust (RPT) will run more refresher safety training courses, providing individual bursaries and working with partners to enable freelancers to update their skills. It will expand support around trauma, creating a pool of practitioners so that RPT can respond to freelancers in a timely and affordable way; negotiating and contributing to treatment fees. And it will run risk assessment surgeries, based on the RPT Online Resource templates for safety and security, providing accessible and free guidance to freelancers.
  • The safety principles leadership group – known as the Culture of Safety (ACOS) Alliance along with other attendees unanimously adopted the following non-discrimination statement: 

Violence, harassment and discrimination against any journalist based on gender, race, sexual orientation or disability should not be tolerated under any circumstances. Editors and news organisations should employ a zero tolerance policy. Media organisations should clearly delineate consequences for engaging in these behaviorsÍž create a safe and confidential environment for reporting such incidents and take immediate action to investigate and hold appropriately accountable the perpetrators of such acts under their employ be they staff, fixers or freelancers. It is best practice to apply the same anti-discrimination policies to freelancers as to staff.


The Freelance Journalist Safety Principles was launched on 12 February 2015 in response to the murder of James Foley and Steven Sotloff in Syria and rising attacks on journalists worldwide. Additional meetings were held in Washington, D.C. in April 2015 and London in June 2015. The principles have now been signed by over 80 organisations. The full text of the principles and a list of signatories can be found on the DART Center website.

Danger for journalists has reached record levels in many parts of the word as documented in the Committee to Protect Journalists 2015 Attacks on the Press report. 

For more information and interview bids please contact David Rohde of Reuters at:

photo: Zein al-Rifai in action, News Finalist at this Year's Rory Peck Awards.  

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