UK nationals condemned over safety

UK newspapers are failing to guarantee a basic level of safety training and equipment to their journalists and local stringers reporting from war zones, according to a world press safety group.

John Szemerey, chairman of the international division of the Chartered Institute of Journalists and a board member of the Brussels-based International News Safety Institute (INSI), said that of the traditional print-based media only The Guardian, the Financial Times and Reuters were members of INSI.

He called on newspapers to join up and contribute to INSI’s journalist safety training schemes in trouble spots around the world in order to protect the local stringers and fixers that Western media rely on abroad.

He said: ‘Training can save the lives of journalists. The benefits of joining are that you are helping journalists worldwide.

‘In places where there is a real and current danger, where many, if not all journalists are not in a position to buy a training course, this is the way of financing it.

‘More British journalists are based in Baghdad and get local stringers to go out and cover events. The local man speaks the language and can fit in, but he is usually not covered by health insurance or safety training.’

INSI insists that its member organisations have a safety policy in place for its staff and that they carry out safety training

And Szemerey said it was not just journalists in war zones that could benefit. ‘Accidents can happen here – riots can turn ugly, for example. Are journalists aware of how to react in these situations?”

The European Broadcasting Union, which represents the BBC and ITV, has recently urged its member to join INSI and will debate the issue at its general assembly in Budapest on 3 July.

INSI’s research found that 171 journalists died last year around the world, the highest figure on record, with many of the dead locally based reporters and stringers. At least 12 journalists have died so far this year.

Membership to INSL costs €1,000 per year.

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