Journalists Abroad

Journalism students are being warned to prepare for danger if reporting abroad.

By Domanii Cameron

Journalism students who are planning to travel to hostile countries as foreign correspondents are being urged to prepare for any potential danger while reporting.

The International Federation for Journalistst outlines the dangers and safety issues around reporting abroad and say these should be considered necessary journalism subjects for universities to teach.

The organisation’s safety programme project officer Adrien Collin says they believe universities should help prepare journalism students for the dangers they might face while reporting abroad.

“There are very few universities who prepare their students for front-line reporting meaning there is a poor record of safety knowledge amongst young journalists,” Adrien says.

“I know of only a few instances where safety training was organised for students.”

The international organisation was the first to offer safety training free of charge to journalists in regions including Eastern Europe, the Balkans, the former Soviet Union, Africa, Asia-Pacific and the Middle East.

The organisation develops safety-training programmes including hostile environment courses, Training of Trainers activities as well as specific publications on the safety of journalists.

“You can never be 100 per cent prepared and there is always a degree of uncertainty in hostile areas,” Adrien says.

“However you should be as prepared as you can and as knowledgeable as you can so you know how to react in case something happens.

“You should get prepared for the unexpected.”

Adrien says some of the most dangerous countries to report in included Mexico, the Philippines, Afghanistan and countries in Africa.

“You need to understand the country, its culture and the geographic ground where are you going to report,” Adrien says.

“You need to know where checkpoints are, have plans in case of injury or in case you get kidnapped.”

Townsville Bulletin defence reporter Emily Macdonald was recently deployed to Afghanistan as well as the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea.

The local reporter says it was the diversity of Afghanistan that shocked her.

“In the morning, you could be at the American base having Starbucks or eating KFC,” Emily says.

“Then the next thing is you’ve gone outside the wire and you’re being shot at by the Taliban and it feels like the Wild Wild West.”

Preparing for overseas reporting can only assist you with so much, the local reporter says.

“You can do the best you can to prepare but nothing really prepares you for when you might have to run for your life,” Emily says.

Young journalists should be accompanied by security or the military for their initial trip.

“I would strongly advise that you embed with the military,” she says.

“I know a lot of journalists who go over on their own and stay in hotels and report that way.

“But if you’re going into a war zone, you should at least embed with the army for the first few times.”

BBC cameraman Dean Squire has travelled and filmed in many hostile countries, including Afghanistan.

“It’s a very different kind of life you live there,” Dean says.

“There are lots of procedures in case the alarms go off.

“A lot of planning goes into it, particularly our safety.”

The cameraman says it helps to know the culture before travelling.

However, he was still shocked by the reality of how some societies live.

“I think the worst experience I ever had was in a West African country where they had just had a really brutal war where people had massively slaughtered one another,” he says.

“It was over when I went but it had happened quite recently.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen or been prepared for such poverty.”

Having a ‘nosy’ streak certainly helps in this particular field of reporting the cameraman says.

“You have to want to understand peculiar things.

“You kind of have to be hungry to want to be a part of something.”

BBC Camera-man Dean Squire in his armour while in Afghanistan. PHOTO CREDIT: Dean Squire

BBC Camera-man Dean Squire in his armour while in Afghanistan. PHOTO CREDIT: Dean Squire