Safety of Journalists > Blog > ​14th IFJ Focus on Safety

​14th IFJ Focus on Safety

02 September 2016

Welcome to the new issue of the IFJ Focus on Safety, a blog which provides highlights, news and in-depth analysis of safety-related events of concern to journalists. The blog is part of the IFJ strategy to promote the safety of journalists and to combat the issue of impunity.

Please check out the IFJ International Code of Practice for the Safe Conduct of Journalism at the end of this issue.

We value your feedback and would like to hear about your safety experience in the field as well as any safety-related stories you would like to share with members of the IFJ family, the global journalists’ community.

The issue covers the following safety-related events and activities

Tunisia Signs Declaration on Media Freedom in Arab World

Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi became the second head of state to sign the Declaration on Media Freedom in the Arab World.

The Declaration, which was also backed by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas earlier in August , was signed during a meeting with a delegation representing the IFJ and Tunisian unions SNJT, UGTT and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and UNESCO in Tunis on 26 August.

President Essebsi assured the delegation of his commitment to support media freedom and independence and to consult with the representatives of journalists over media reforms.

The official signing was followed by a national meeting of more than 150 participants representing media organisations, editors, trade unions, national commissions and institutions and journalists who also signed the declaration.

The Declaration was also signed by heads of all parliamentary groups the previous day.

Read more here

IFJ Supports Safety Training for Journalists in Iraq Risk Zones

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), in collaboration with its affiliate, the Kurdistan Journalists Syndicate, organised a three day safety training from 2-4 August in Alqosh city, 46 km away from Mosul city, which is under ISIS control.

The IFJ Safety trainer Mohammed Aqrawi has trained 27 journalists and photojournalists on different first aid and safety topics including digital security.

This safety training is a part of a wider program that was implemented in the Middle East and Arab region since 2011. This program came as a response, from the IFJ and journalists' unions in the region, to the unsecure and unsafe environment facing journalists in the Arab world. All previous statistics show that this region is the most dangerous in the world for journalists.

Call to Lift Arbitrary Suspension of Radio and TV Stations in Zambia

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) strongly condemned the arbitrary suspension of three broadcast stations in Zambia.

Zambia’s Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA) announced the suspension of the licenses for Muvi TV, the country’s most popular television station, Komboni Radio station and Radio Itezhi Tezhi on 22 August, according to reports. The stations were suspended for alleged “unprofessional conduct” in their election coverage and also accused of posing a risk to peace and security.

Read more here

IFJ Urges End to Massive Repression of Media in Burundi

In a letter addressed to the Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza, IFJ President Philippe Leruth and General Secretary Anthony Bellanger listed a series of violations faced by various media, in particular radio broadcasters, and Burundian journalists since the announcement of the candidature of Nkurunziza for a third term at the head of the country on 25 April 2015.

Read the full article in French.

Fear Grows for Life of Burundian Journalist Missing since July

Jean Bigiramana, a journalist for Iwacu newspaper, has been reported missing since Friday 22 July. The journalist’s family said he was arrested by members of the Burundian intelligence services in the province of Muramvya. The authorities alleged he had made regular trips to Rwanda - where he was undertaking journalism training. No legal motive has been given to justify the arrest. He has not been charged and his whereabouts remain unknown, leading to fears for his life

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has condemned the arbitrary arrest and demanded respect for press freedom in Burundi.

Read more here

Pakistan: Political Party Cadres Attack TV Offices in Karachi

The Pakistani Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) strongly condemned the attacks, including the assault on 22 August on the ARY News TV station by the cadres of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) political movement. Dozens of attackers armed with rods broke into the office and vandalized doors, windows, furniture and equipment and set fire to vehicles.

According to news reports, the violent storming of the station was carried out by MQM supporters Qaumi after their leader Altaf Hussein, currently in exile in London, incited them to attack TV stations during a speech criticizing media for not giving due coverage to their week-long hunger strike against the government’s crackdown against MQM, delivered over the phone and relayed by loudspeakers.

The MQM cadres also attacked the media workers and vehicles who had gone to cover their hunger strike near the Karachi Press Club. Dunya News reporter Fahad Qamar was injured while reporting the scuffle between police and the protesters.

Read more here

Former Mayor Guilty in Philippine for Journalist’s Killing

On 11 August, the former Lezo mayor, Alfredo Arcenio was found guilty of homicide for Hinolan’s murder. He was sentenced by a judge of the Regional Trial Court Branch 16 in Cebu City to 14 years in jail and ordered to pay Hinolan’s family PHP 237,500 (USD 5,000) in damages.

Hinolan, the director and commentator for Bombo Radyo in Kalibo, on Panay Island in the central Philippines died on 15 November 2004, two days after being shot several times by unidentified gunmen. Following the murder, two witnesses came forward and testified that the then-mayor of Lezo, Alfredo Arcenio shot Hinolan. An arrest warrant for Arcenio was activated in 2006; however he eluded arrest for more than 12 months.

Read more here

IFJ Urges Action on 11 Cases of Missing Journalists in Asia Pacific

On the eve of the eve of the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances (August 30), the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) urged Asia-Pacific governments in which media workers have gone missing to take active steps to investigate these critical cases and tackle impunity around missing media workers in the region.

The IFJ notes with serious concern that little progress has been made in the investigations of 11 documented missing cases in the Asia Pacific since it released its first report ‘Without A Trace: Media Workers missing in the Asia-Pacific’ on missing media workers from Asia-Pacific in 2015. Since then, an additional case has been added to the list – that of 24-year-old Pakistani journalist Zeenat Shahzadi, who went missing on August 19, 2015.

The IFJ’s report lists cases of missing media workers from five countries, where investigations into their disappearance have either faltered or failed to identify perpetrators. Collectively, there are 11 cases of journalists who have been missing for a total of over 46,000 days.

Across the region, the missing include, Juanta Nielsen (Australia), Prakash Singh Thakuri, Chitra Narayan Shrestha, Milan Nepali, Madan Paudel (all of Nepal), Ahmed Rilwan Abdulla (Maldives), Zeenat Shahzadi (Pakistan), Joey Estriber (Philippines), and Prageeth Eknaligoda, Subramaniam Ramachandran and Vadivel Nimalarajah (all of Sri Lanka).

Read the IFJ's full statement here

The IFJ and Its Affiliate in Peru Commemorate Two Missing Journalists

In Latin America, to mark the UN International Day for the Victims of Enforced Disappearances, the IFJ joined its Peruvian affiliate, the Asociación Nacional de Periodistas del Perú (ANP), in honouringthe memory of the journalists Jaime Ayala and Pedro Yauri, missing more than twenty years and whose remains have never been discovered.

Read the full article in Spanish here

Macedonia: Free Zoran Bozinovski

In a letter to the President of Macedonia and the country’s public prosecutor, the IFJ General Secretary Anthony Bellanger and President Philippe Leruth condemned the arrest and continued detention of the journalist who the authorities in 2013 accused of espionage, criminal association and blackmail.

Bozinovski – a freelance journalist and founder of the online media was arrested on 21 April, after his extradition from Serbia, where he had lived for the past 3 years.

He remains in detention and has now spent more than 4 months in prison.

Read more here

Kosovo: Government Condemns Bomb Attack on Home of Public Broadcaster Chief

Police in Kosovo said that they are investigating an incident in which a grenade was thrown at the home of Mentor Shala, the chief of Radio Television of Kosovo (RTK). His family was at home but no one was injured, the police added in a statement. The authorities have reacted to the attack, condemning a “criminal act directed against media freedom in Kosovo,” according to AFP.

The AFP added that, on 22 August, another grenade was thrown at thrown in the courtyard on RTK’s headquarters in Pristina, causing material damage.

Read more here

Armenia: Excessive Police Force against Journalists Covering Demonstrations

Several media workers were victims of police violence during a demonstration in Yerevan on 29 July in which journalists suffered burns, bruises and injuries. They included three journalists of Radio Liberty’s Armenian service - Karlen Aslanyan, Hovhannes Movsisyan and Garik Harutiunian; journalists of CivilNet and A1+ TV; journalists of website Mariam Grigoryan and cameraman David Harutyunyan; the correspondent of Armenia TV Aghvan Asoyan and cameraman Albert Galstyan; the journalist of Marut Vanyan; and the cameraman of the Russian Life TV, according to local media reports.

The director of RFE/RL’s Armenian broadcasting service claimed that unidentified plain clothes police officers targeted and attacked Radio Liberty's three journalists with batons, smashed their equipment and tore off their press badges, forcing them to abandon a live broadcast from the spot. A journalist and cameraman of A1+ alleged that they were forcibly removed from their company vehicles, beaten, and also had their press badges violently torn off.

The case case was submitted to the Council of Europe platform for the promotion of journalism and the safety of journalists.

Read more here

Major Media Crackdown after Failed Coup in Turkey

The ongoing crackdown on the media in Turkey has led to the arrests of more journalists and raids on their homes as well closures of websites. The anti-terror prosecutor Irfan Fidan issued arrest warrants for at least 42 journalistsThe International and the European Federation of Journalists (IFJ/EFJ) denounced the deterioration of democratic rule, of which press freedom is one of the pillars.

The two organisations have submitted several cases of violence against journalists to the Council of Europe platform for the promotion of journalism and the protection of journalists.

Read more here

IFJ Safety Fund Situation: Up to August 2016

The International Safety Fund of the International Federation of Journalists has paid out over 30.000 Euros in humanitarian assistance to journalists and media staff across the globe since the start of 2016.

Number of Journalists Killed in 2016

According to the IFJ statistics, at least 55 journalists and media staff have been killed in 2016 so far. The victims come from 16 different countries, of which Afghanistan has recorded the highest death toll with 10, followed by Mexico (7), India, Iraq, Pakistan, Syria and Yemen with 5 killings each.

For details, please visit

Have Your Say: Turkish journalists recount three days of torture and threats in detention

Four Turkish journalists have been recounting the torture and threats they faced after being arrested as the crackdown on media continues across the country.

And they thanked all those who campaigned for their release, believing the solidarity helped stop them being treated worse and held longer.

Evrensel journalists Hasan Akbaş, Fırat Topal and Serpil Berk, as well as Reuters’ Sertaç Kayar, were among the first on the scene following a bomb attack on 10 August in the Southeast Anatolian province of Diyarbakır.

The quartet, who were coincidentally at a cafe next the province’s famous Dicle Bridge when the explosion occurred nearby, were deemed suspicious by the police for being in the vicinity of the attack. They were subsequently detained and held for three days.

Now freed, they have spoken to their union DİSK Basın-İş, about the torture and threatening and abusive behavior they faced in detention.

Fırat Topal (Evrensel and Hayatın Sesi TV Diyarbakır correspondent)

“After the explosion, we went to the site and took pictures – just like any journalist would. At the same time, Hasan went to help the wounded. After sending our pictures to our news desk, we departed. After walking for a while, we came to the first checkpoint; they looked at our ID and gave us permission to pass. As that was happening, a car was passing; we asked for a lift and the driver agreed to take us. We passed a second checkpoint, but at the third, they took us out of the car, forced us down to the ground and made us wait 1.5 hours with our faces to the ground. They took us one by one to an interrogation room. They asked me to become an informant “as a friend,” saying that in exchange for me helping them, they would help me. I told them that I would not help them on such matters, but they said they would call again.

“In the morning, they brought us to the detention room. There were six or seven people in a cell that was only made for two. When they closed the door, it was hard to even breathe. Because you’re in custody, you’re not allowed any visits or cigarettes, and if you need a shower, that’s not allowed either. There were people in there that hadn’t had a shower in a week or two. We were released thanks to the support campaign that was launched for us.”

Serpil Berk (Evrensel and Hayatın Sesi TV Diyarbakır correspondent)

“The moment we were taken into custody, everything that we experienced was an attack directed at our profession. As soon as we said that we were journalists, the scale of the profanity changed and we were subjected to verbal and physical abuse.

“They handcuffed our hands behind our back and piled us into an armored car. When we were taken to the Diyarbakır Anti-Terror branch, they kept us handcuffed behind our backs and prohibited us from standing next to each other or even talking to each other.

“We were taken to dark places [for interrogation] with our face to the floor. Even during interrogation, we weren’t allowed to raise our heads, and they constantly said, ‘Don’t you even think of raising your head, look at the floor. These guys are not allowed to talk to each other. Shoot anyone who talks.’ As the pictures on my phone were being inspected, my roommate called and I asked to answer it. This confirmation [to the outside world] that we had been taken into custody happened about four hours after the incident.

They took the handcuffs off toward 3 in the morning, collecting our clothes for a criminal inspection. After taking a record of our clothes, I was taken to the sports hall alongside the other women at about 6 in the morning because there was no room in the detention room. I stayed in the conference room of the sports hall with 16 other women. The day after, we were able to speak to our lawyer and relate what had happened to us.”

Hasan Akbaş (Evrensel and Hayatın Sesi TV Diyarbakır correspondent)

We went through eight hours of torture in this vacant lot with our hands cuffed behind our back and a policeman endlessly shouting, ‘Shoot anyone who raises their head. After this place clears out, you’ll see.’ From there, we were packed like sardines and taken to the police station. There, we were forced to wait for about six hours with our hands cuffed behind us and our face to the ground against the wall where all the garbage was. There was a constant stream of police from a number of units, including intelligence, who came to interrogate us. One of them said, ‘You came from Ankara. I’ve researched everything about your journalism, your life and your family. I thought to myself, ‘What’s he doing here?’ Now I’ve come to ask you myself. What are you doing with these people?’ I said: ‘Journalism is a profession done everywhere and in every condition. I’m doing it here.’ This person then said, ‘Look, big guy, this is Diyarbakır. People are shot dead here in the back of the head. Their houses are raided and they’re shot dead in the night – it’s not clear by whom. If you say you’re going to do journalism under these conditions, then by all means, continue to do it in Diyarbakır. If not, get out of here.’

After the handcuffs were taken off, I couldn’t move my wrists for some time. I had bruises that had gone from purple to black. I was accompanied by police as I went into the examination room at the state hospital, but we weren’t examined. ‘Do you have any injuries?’ the doctor asked. When I mentioned my health complaints stemming from the handcuffs, the doctor dismissed it, saying, ‘That’s not important; anything else?’ The torment of the handcuffs was replaced by the bad conditions of the detention room. Our right to three meals a day was fulfilled, but the cleanliness and hygiene, in terms of a possible breeding ground for disease, was [terrible]. There were close to 70 people in custody who had not been given a health check; because of the lack of ventilation inside, most were sick. Also, because there was nowhere to lie down, you also got extra pains in your body.

Sertaç Kayar (Freelance/Reuters)

Because we were so close to the site of the explosion, we were also the victims of the incident. Despite the psychological effects stemming from the explosion, we attempted to perform our profession by informing the public about the incident. Later, however, we were stopped by the police and subjected to insults, violence and death threats. [After our car was stopped], our cell phones were taken from us, so our ability to communicate was completely eliminated, while we were forced to wait for hours on our knees with our hands cuffed behind our backs. During this time, they were insulting and threatening us with stuff like ‘If you make a sound, will blow your head off. What were you doing there? You guys think you’re journalists?’ while also subjecting us to brute violence.

“Again while in custody, they made overtures about us becoming informants, saying ‘Help us; we’ll talk outside.’ When we said no, we were threatened with arrest. Our pants, shoes, T-Shirts and belts were taken for inspection, while our computers, telephones, camera cards and mobile modems were confiscated.”

IFJ International Code of Practice for the Safe Conduct of Journalism

The dangers to journalists and media staff working in dangerous situations and conflict zones are the subject of extensive record. The IFJ has recorded the deaths of more than 1000 journalists and media staff over the past ten years.

Many journalists are killed, injured or harassed in war zones, either targeted by one side or another or caught in the crossfire of violence. Others are victims of premeditated assault and intimidation either by criminals, terrorists or by agencies of the state — the police, the military or the security forces — acting secretly and illegally.

Very often there is little that journalists or media organisations can do to avoid casualties. There will, inevitably, be accidents, no matter how much care is taken to provide protection and there is little one can do when those targeting media use ruthless and brutal methods to crush journalistic inquiry.

However, there are steps that journalists and media organisations should take to minimise the risks to staff. In particular, the following are vital considerations in providing protection:

Adequate preparation, training and social protection. It is essential that journalists and media staff be in a state of readiness when difficulties arise. There should be a framework for providing individuals with health care and social protection.

Media professionals must be informed and inform themselves about the political, physical, and social terrain in which they are working. They must not contribute to the uncertainty and insecurity of their conditions through ignorance or reckless behaviour.

Mediaorganisationsmust guard against risk-taking for competitive advantage, and should promote co-operation among journalists whenever conditions exist which are potentially hazardous.

Governments must remove obstacles to journalism. They must not restrict unnecessarily the freedom of movement of journalists or compromise the right of news media to gather, produce and disseminate information in secure and safe conditions.

People Must Keep Their Hands Off Media. Everyone should respect the physical integrity of journalists and media staff at work. Physical interference with filming or other journalistic work must be prohibited.

With these considerations in mind, the IFJ calls on journalists groups, mediaorganisationsand all relevant public authorities to respect the following International Code of Practice for the Safe Conduct of Journalism:

1. Journalists and other media staff shall be properly equipped for all assignments including through the provision of first-aid materials, communication tools, adequate transport facilities and, where necessary, protective clothing;

2. Media organisations and, where appropriate, state authorities shall provide risk awareness training for those journalists and media workers who are likely to be involved in assignments where dangerous conditions prevail or may be reasonably expected;

3. Public authorities shall inform their personnel of the need to respect the rights of journalists and shall instruct them to respect the physical integrity of journalists and media staff while at work;

4. Media organisations shall provide social protection for all staff engaged in journalistic activity outside the normal place of work, including life insurance;

5. Media organisations shall provide, free of charge, medical treatment and health care, including costs of recuperation and convalescence, for journalists and media workers who are the victims of injury or illness as a result of their work outside the normal place of work;

6. Media organisations shall protect freelance or part-time employees. They must receive, on an equal basis, the same social protection and access to training and equipment as that made available to fully employed staff.