Sheffield students advised on journalism safety

Students and speakers from the No News is Worth Your Life event

Journalism students at the University of Sheffield recently attended a symposium in which they received advice and information about safety when covering news and working abroad. The event was organised by the Department of Journalism Studies with the support of the International News Safety Institute (INSI) and the Centre for the Freedom of the Media (CFOM) on 31 July 2012 at the Interdisciplinary Centre of the Social Sciences (ICOSS).

At the event – titled No News is Worth Your Life: Basic Safety Principles for News Correspondents and Reporters – students were made aware of the different resources available in terms of training and support for journalists who are sent to dangerous places or whose work involves different types of risks.

The first speaker was Rodney Pinder, director of the INSI in London. Pinder is also a former Reuters Senior Correspondent and former head of Reuters Television. He was followed by William Horsley, a former BBC Foreign Correspondent and currently the International Director of the CFOM, based at the University of Sheffield.


Taking responsibility

Pinder pointed out that journalism has become a dangerous profession and that in the last 10 years over 1,000 journalists and news media employees have been killed around the world while reporting news stories. This, he added, "is why it is so important that journalists and news media organisation give training priority."

According to Pinder, it is journalists themselves who have to be aware and be able to recognise the dangers and potential risks they face when carrying out their jobs – as "no-one is going to care more about our own lives and security than ourselves".

The former head of Reuters Television explained also that although a degree of risk associated with journalistic work is often unavoidable, there are important steps that can be taken to reduce the chances of being hurt or even killed.

He highlighted that the INSI provides advice and support in this matter and constantly organises training sessions and workshops around the world. The institute also has a website where journalists and news crew members can find the most up-to-date and comprehensive information regarding safety and security for those who are trying to cover stories.

William Horsley's intervention, on the other hand, centred on how international law and multilateral treaties can be used by news organisations and journalists to enhance their own rights and safety. "In CFOM, we have worked closely with governments, UN agencies and regional human rights organisations like the Council of Europe," he said, "as well as stakeholders like NGOs and journalists’ bodies to help to set up an effective framework of international law and practice to protect journalists."


International pressure

"Last year we organised a major international conference on how to end impunity of those who attack journalists around the world," added Horsley. "We often think that the UN system is something remote to us, when in reality it has a direct link with what we do as journalists. Even authoritarian and powerful governments are susceptible to pressures to oblige them to live up to their commitments under these treaties because they know that they may suffer very seriously reputational damage if serious abuses or failures in this area are exposed.

"The United Nations' human rights experts already investigate and exert pressure through what is called the special procedures branch, and CFOM has been working to maximise the impact of the UN’s action plan on the safety of journalists and impunity, which was approved at the highest level in April of this year."

The workshop was directed towards those who will be working as journalists in the future and was open to all journalism students of the undergraduate and postgraduate courses in the University of Sheffield. Although safety has always been an integral part of many of the modules which already delivered in the Department of Journalism Studies at Sheffield, this is the first time that an event has been organised solely for this purpose.

The International News Safety Institute is currently designing and developing an online module on the theme of journalists’ safety for higher education and further education institutions. It has asked the Department of Journalism Studies at the University of Sheffield, among other institutions, to provide feedback and advice.