“How do journalists keep themselves safe in war zones? They can’t. I was taught we should never think that we are either safe or qualified to recognize all potential dangers”
- Nenad Sebek BBC war correspondent.
During this post I will discuss embedded journalism and steps journalists should take to ensure their safety and success as a war correspondent.
“Embedded journalism” refers to news reporters being attached to military units involved in armed conflicts.
Prior to embedding with these military units reporters are usually required to sign contracts with the military promising not to report information that could compromise unit position, future missions, classified weapons, and information they might find.
More often than not staff journalists will deploy as embedded journalists rather than freelancers. GlobalPost released a statement: “While we continue to send staff correspondents to war zones, we no longer accept freelance work from war zones.” The Agence France-Presse (AFP) also released a statement saying that it would “no longer accept work from freelance journalists who travel to places where we ourselves would not venture”. Staff journalists are also able to afford Hostile Environment Awareness Training whereas freelancers are on a limited budget and (quite unfairly) can not conduct the same amount of pre-deployment training.
Foreign correspondents like to believe that they travel with an implicit "white flag" -- a pledge of independence and neutrality that will be respected by everyone. But we don't live in that world. We live in a world where bullets and bombs don’t discriminate between soldier and reporter.
Some embedded journalists rely on the military unit they are embedded with to provide their protection during these deployments. This is an unwise decision. When a reporter accompanies a unit during a mission, members of the unit are required to act as escorts and essentially bodyguards to the reporter and his cameraman. This reduces the effectiveness of the military operation by removing key elements and tasking them elsewhere. Soldiers are not trained to protect media crews they are trained to fight the enemy.
Embedded correspondents are often not aware of key combat indicators and risks associated with military deployments. For this reason the unit they are attached to are often left to babysit these reporters during dangerous operations.
Embedded correspondents should consider enlisting the services of a risk consultant with experience working in war zones with media crews. The risk consultant would deploy with the media crew thus allowing both the soldiers and the correspondent to concentrate on their individual aims. A risk consultant understands both sides of the operation, from the soldier’s side and from the reporter’s side. They will be able to provide information, services and advice to the media team concerning safety, communications, logistics, secure transportation, specialised first-aid, protective equipment, weapons familiarisation. They can even help the correspondent understand the sometimes-indecipherable lingo of soldiers!
For further information please contact Global Media Risk at firstname.lastname@example.org