New code recommends safe practices for freelance journalists

A new code of safe practices for journalists will be unveiled Feb. 12 by a panelists at Dart Center for Journalism & Trauma at Columbia University, New York

The document is called “A Call for Global Safety Principles and Practices”. It aims to set out basic standards for freelance journalists working in dangerous settings, such as conflict zones or in the aftermath of natural disasters.


The code makes many recommendations for freelance journalists, including:

  • learning first aid as preparations for overseas reporting
  • wearing appropriate protective gear such as bullet proof vests while in conflict zones
  • making a full assessment of potential risks before traveling to a hazardous region
  • planning out as many assignments details as possible before arriving on location

The also calls on news agencies to upload a “moral responsibility” for their freelance reporters, stating that these organizations should:

  • advocate for freelance journalists in crisis situations, including kidnapping and injury
  • equip all reporters with safety gear when working on
  • treat their freelancers the same way as full-time staffers, with equitable pay and similar by-line privileges when working on assignment

A Dangerous Time

From 2012 to 2014, 205 journalists were killed as a result of their work, according the Committee to Protect Journalism (CPJ). Sixty-one of these deaths occurred last year, including the executions of American freelance journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff.

These figures represent a 24 percent increase as compared to the previous three year period.  Robert Mahoney, deputy director for the CPJ, attributes this rise in a change in working conditions for overseas reporters.

As terrorists harness the power of online publishing, these groups no longer rely on journalists to broadcast their messages. As a result, journalists are now more valuable as hostages and spectacles than as conduits to the global media.

As well, rising costs have forced many mainstream media outlets to cut-back or close down their foreign bureau divisions. This means that many journalists are now working in unstable regions as freelancers, out in the field alone and without much assistance.

Major News Agencies Support the Code

Many news organizations have signed their agreement to the new guidelines, including the Associated Press, the BBC and Reuters. Several journalism advocacy have also gotten on-board with the recommendations, including the Committee to Protect Journalists, the Frontline Freelance Register, and Reporters without Borders.

By signing the code, these agencies and organizations agree to abide by and support the code.

Photo courtesy of the BBC.

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