Safety of Journalists > Blog > Focus on Safety: November 2014

Focus on Safety: November 2014

05 December 2014

New! IFJ Focus on Safety

Welcome to IFJ ‘Focus on Safety’, the first of a monthly blog posting which will provide highlights, news and in-depth analysis about safety-related events of concern to journalists.

This is part of IFJ strategy on the safety of journalists and the issue of impunity. We welcome your feedback, experiences in the field and any stories you may wish to share with members of the global journalists’ community.

This November issue covers the following :

IFJ Campaign against Impunity for Crime against Journalists 2014

The IFJ campaign against impunity for violence in journalism was launched on 2 November 2014, the day of the first commemoration of the UN Day against impunity for crime targeting journalists since its inception on 18 December 2013 by the UN General Assembly.

The following are the highlights of the month long campaign:

  • The #EndImpunity Twitter campaign asking world leaders what there are doing to end violence against journalists.
  • Video messages calling for end of impunity for violence against journalists. Read more here

·The IFJ took part at the third UN Inter-Agency Meeting on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity which was held on 4 November in Strasbourg, France. Read more here

  • The IFJ also participated at the Inter-Regional Meeting of Legal Experts to discuss how human rights law can contribute towards addressing impunity for violence against journalists. Read more here

  • To mark the fourth commemoration of the International Day against impunity for crime targeting journalists on 23 November, the IFJ Asia Pacific conducted a mission to the Philippines to mark the fifth anniversary of the Maguindanao massacre, in which at least 32 journalists lost their lives. The International Day was initiated to commemorate this single deadliest attack on media. Read more here

  • On 23 November, the IFJ's Thunderclap message was also released to more than 255.000 contacts, urging governments to ensure accountability for crime against journalists.

L’Organisation internationale de la Francophonie (OIF) Pledges Protection of Journalists

  • The IFJ Africa Office wrote to the Secretariat of l’Organisation internationale de la Francophonie (OIF), ahead of its 15th Summit of 28-29 November in Dakar, Senegal, urging the Governing body of the French speaking world to adopt measures to join the campaign against impunity. The Summit subsequently adopted an official Declaration in which Member States condemned all forms of violence against journalists and pledged to guarantee media protection. Read more here

Human Rights Forum in Marrakech Discusses Safety of Journalists

  • The IFJ took part at the World Forum of Human Rights in Marrakech, Morocco of 27 – 30 November to highlight the acute safety crisis in media and called for the protection of journalists who play an important public role. Read more here

IFJ and GPU Train 15 Gambian Journalists on Online Safety

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and the Gambia Press Union (GPU) organised a training of fifteen journalists and bloggers on online safety. The training session was funded by the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Senegal.

This workshop designed for Gambian media professionals took place from 25 through 28 November, 2014 in the town of Kaolack, Senegal. Gabriel Baglo stressed the need for users in general, and media professionals and bloggers in particular to resort to maximum protection and security against any intrusions and multifaceted attacks that occur on the web daily.

This series of training in Guinea-Bissau and Gambia are part of the IFJ online safety program for journalists in West Africa.

Have a safety story or tips to share? We want to hear from you!

The IFJ puts a premium on the safety of journalists and invests considerable resources in training journalists around the world in life saving skills. In order to continue improving on our training courses and ensure they address the safety needs, we want to hear from those who have had to put in practice the skills learned. In this blog, we want to hear from your experience in the field about real life safety situations and we welcome contributions to share with colleagues. We will of course keep personal details confidential in case they can jeopardisethe safety of contributors.

In this issue, we wish to share a real life situation of a journalist who experienced a life threatening incident but kept her wits about and made quick decisions which most probably saved her life and her crew’s. This is her story. All names of individuals and areas have been taken out to protect her identity for security reasons.

I was travelling with my fixer and driver from the rebel held city in Eastern Ukraine back to the area under the control of the Ukrainian army. The distance between these areas is about 10 kilometers.

I had met the separatists and their leader who showed me the destruction of the city. I left well before dark. There were no problems at the first Ukrainian roadblock which is about 3 kilometers from the separatists’ last roadblock. But the trouble started when I arrived at the second Ukrainian roadblock around 1 pm.

The first Ukrainian soldier that stopped us said to his phone “I think we got some separatists, maybe we should shoot them”. The attitude was very hostile from the beginning. The soldiers (there was also police) guided our car to the roadblock, and the soldiers and the police started to investigate our luggage and they took all my working equipment: laptop, phones, camera, recorder, notes, video camera, and also my passport and press card and our accreditation for the separatist areas. We showed them our ID papers when we arrived at the roadblock.

We were told to wait for their “commander”. After one hour, a man in military fatigue arrived and said that we were ok (didn’t show any ID or tell us who he was) but told us to wait for the police commander before leaving. We waited for about 2 hours more and two more “commanders” showed up, asking for our accreditation. I told all of them that my accreditation is ok, but I had no paper. The press office had advised us (and other journalists) to call the press center if there is any trouble at all at the Ukrainian side.

During the first three hours of waiting at the roadblock, “the commanders” didn’t let me or my fixer use our phones. When we finally got our belongings back my fixer called the press center and they confirmed that our documents are just fine and we are allowed to work inside the zone. The press officer was on the phone, but the “commander” refused to talk to him. This commander also refused to talk to diplomats and other Ukrainian officials who wanted to explain the situation.

“The commander’s” then decided to send us back to the separatist area. I and my fixer kept telling him that it is life-threatening to return to the area in total darkness. I also asked him several times why he doesn’t want to talk to the press officer to get his facts straight. His only answer was “no comments”.

He told us to turn our car around and leave. The driver turned the car and the fixer tried to convince “the commander” that he is sending us to death, in vain. Earlier during the day, the separatist leader had told us that no one uses the road between the separatist and Ukrainian army in the dark, because they’ll shoot at the cars coming towards their roadblock.

At this point there was chaos at the roadblock. Other Ukrainian army servicemen were confused and scared about the situation. One of them tried to explain his “commander” that it is way too dangerous to send us back to the separatists’ area, to no avail.

Then soldiers started the engine of one of their tanks and the ‘commander’ said that they would push our car if we didn’t leave. We got into our car and followed the commander to their closest roadblock to the separatists.

Fortunately, we happened to have the separatist leader’s phone number. I told the driver to go as slowly as possible so that the fixer could reach the separatist leader before we got too close to the separatists roadblock (distance was about 3 km). There was no connection initially but after about 30 calls the fixer finally got through to the separatist leader. Fortunately, he understood our situation immediately and called his people at the roadblocks to let us through, and asked us to drive to his headquarters.

We got to the separatist headquarters and waited for few minutes for the separatist leader. He told us that he’d give us an escort to get out of the city. Suddenly, there was heavy shelling from the Ukrainian side (about 20 minutes after we were sent back). I asked the separatist leader if it was better to go to the shelter or to leave the city. He told that both options are bad and I decided that we’ll follow the escort car and escape from the shelling. Because of our escort car we could drive through the separatist roadblocks without stopping.

Two days after this incident I told two press officers in Ukrainian army about it and they both were confused about the incident and couldn’t understand the behavior of their fellow officer.”