Safety of Journalists > Blog > New: 13th IFJ focus on Safety

New: 13th IFJ focus on Safety

07 March 2016

Welcome to 13th issue of the IFJ Focus on Safety, a monthly blog which provides highlights, news and in-depth analysis of safety-related events of concerns 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.

This issue covers the following safety-related events and activities which took place since January 2016:

IFJ 25th Report on Journalists and Media Staff Killed between 1990 and 2015

The IFJ released at the beginning of February the 25th annual report on journalists and media staff killed since the Federation began these publications in 1990. The report lists 2297 media fatalities due to violence in journalism, including 112 killed in 2015 alone. From double digits at the start of these publications, the figures reached three digits in eleven years, peaking to 155 killings of journalists and media staff in 2006, the deadliest year on record, according to the IFJ reports.

IFJ Joins International Conference on Safety of Media Professionals

The one-day conference, jointly convened by the IFJ and WAN-IFRA with the support of the UNESCO's International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC), brought together at UNESCO headquarters in Paris senior journalists, editors and media owners from around the world who debated on a range of safety issues. They included the best newsroom practices, ending impunity together, safety for community, regional and local media as well as safety for freelancers and social media producers.

Launch of Course in Media Safety in Beirut, Lebanon

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) in partnership with UNESCO’s Office in Beirut and in collaboration with the Directorate of Higher Education at the Lebanese Education Ministry, ran a regional conference on 15-16 February in Beirut, Lebanon to discuss a “model university course on the safety of Journalists”.

The conference aimed to create an enabling environment for future journalists, allowing them to cover news in a safer and more professional way, taking into consideration the local contexts, as well as international standards in place. It also served to update journalism curricula in universities, through adapting and integrating different components of the new safety course.

Ukrainian Journalist Released after One-Year Long Detention in Eastern Ukraine

Ukrainian ‪journalist Maria ‪Varfolomeyeva was released on 3 March, after spending more than a year behind bars. She was arrested on9 January 2015 in ‪Luhansk, Eastern Ukraine,by the authorities of the self-proclaimed Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR), on allegations of spying for the Ukrainian nationalist movement (Right Sector).

Varfolomeyeva, a reporter for a local news website Svobodny and a fixer for various national media, was taking photos of an apartment block in Luhansk when she was detained by representatives of the LPR and later threatened with a 15-year jail sentence.

The IFJ and the EFJ submitted her case to the Council of Europe’s platform to promote journalism and safety of journalists

Colombian Journalist Claudia Julieta Duque Testifies in Landmark Trial for ‘Torture’ by DAS

The court in Bogota, Colombia heard the testimony of Colombian prominent journalist Claudia Julieta Duque, in a case involving a former senior officer of the Department of Administrative Security (DAS), the infamous secret service in Colombia which has been disbanded.

Claudia, who was kidnapped and still lives under state protection for her investigations into the murder of her fellow journalist Jaime Garzón Forero killed in 1999, testified against a former DAS Deputy Director for his alleged part in psychological torture she suffered for many years under the regime of ex-President Alvaro Uribe Velez.

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), representing over 600.000 members in 134 countries and its affiliate in UK and Ireland, the National Union of Journalists (NUJ), joined other international organisations showing their support to Claudia at today’s hearing in the capital city Bogota.

News Anchor Harassed over Talk Show in Kerala, India

Sindhu Sooryakumar, a news anchor with Malayalam-language news channel, Asianet, hosted a discussion about the celebration of Mahishasura Jayanti on February 26. The discussion focused on whether Mahisasura Jayanti, a martyrdom day marking the killing of the demon Mahishasur by Goddess Durga in the Hindu mythology, which is observed by some tribal communities in West Bengal, Odisha and Jharkhand, is an act of treason.

Following the programme, Sooryakumar’s phone number was circulated on social media including Facebook, and social communication app, Whatsapp, after which she received over 2,000 harassing and abusive phone calls and messages. Those harassing Sooryakumar included members of the Rashtriya Swayam Sevak Sangh (RSS) who espouse a form of militant Hinduism as well as members of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Indian Journalist under Attack for Reporting

On 7 February, a group of 20 people gathered in front of Malini Subramniam’s residence, a correspondent of the independent English-language news site Scroll.in. The mob shouted abusive slogans including ‘death to Malini Subramaniam’, as well as pelting rocks at her home, which shattered her car windows. The mob tried to encourage her neighbours to attack her, claiming she was a Maoist supporter.

In an interview with Scoll.in following the attack, Subramaniam said that she recognised two of the men in the group who belong to political parties in the state, as well as other men from the crowd who are members of the anti-Maoist group Samajik Ekta Manch. The police initially denied to file the First Information Report (FIR) and didn’t initiate an investigation into the incident until Wednesday, February 10. Subramaniam was told by officers that her case was very weak.

This latest attack came after Subramaniam published a number of articles about human rights violations in the state, and previously she has been attacked for publishing similar reports. In month leading up this recent attack, police officials have repeatedly come to Subramaniam’s house to interrogate her about her reporting.

Journalist Arrested as Police Storm Newsroom in Maldives

According to reports, Hussain Fariyaz, a sports journalist for the opposition-aligned Rajje TV, was arrested on Sunday 13 February when plain clothed police officers entered the Rajje TV newsroom. Fariyaz was arrested without a court warrant and detained for two hours. He was later released, police reportedly admitted to making a mistake with his arrest. Photos of the arrest show Fariyaz’s clothes ripped, while he is being manhandled and pushed into the police vehicle.

Raajje TV claimed that Fariyaz was arrested for taking a photo of a police officer taking a bottle of alcohol during a raid. However the police said in a statement that Fariyaz had tried to ‘flee’ from officers when he was asked to show a media pass. He was arrested for ‘disobeying orders’.

Journalists and Media Staff Killed Since January 2016

22 journalists and media staff have been killed since the start of the year in eleven countries, including Afghanistan (8), Guinea (1), India (1), Iraq (2), Mexico (2), Pakistan (2), Philippines (1), Syria (1), Turkey (1), Venezuela (1) and Yemen (2).

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.