Media from hostile environments is increasingly gathered by freelancers, as the bigger organisations take a more risk adverse outlook. Often the freelancer finds themselves plunged into the situation and reporting within hours of making the decision, typically lacking any form of freelancer safety training.
As we approach National Freelancers Day on 21st November 2014, it is fitting to reflect on the risks to freelancers aiming to make their name in hostile environments.
INSI records the tragic casualty figures for media workers, including freelancers. Their casualty counter [at time of writing] sits at 99, almost awaiting to “click over” to the horrific landmark of 100 media worker deaths. Where is the most “dangerous” place to work in media? INSIs figures suggest that Pakistan sits ahead of Iraq, Syria and Ukraine, with shooting being the main cause of these deaths. For full figures from INSI click here.
So if the leading cause of death is shooting, is there anything that can be done? Bullet proof vests- are only fully bullet proof in the movies, those offering the highest levels of protection, often simulatenously providing the greatest limitation to movement. Should a freelancer hinge their safety on the ballistic properties of their body armour? Or is a wider approach required?
Many of the larger media outlets invest in providing their media staff traveling to warzones and disaster areas with safety training, typically called Hostile Environments Training. This training commonly focuses on the complete approach from pre-deployment planning, via risk assessment, critical decision making, kit selection and typically first aid training. These courses are extremely worthwhile, but can often be too costly for the freelancer to access.
If time allows the freelancer can often cover a number of these topics themselves, gathering resources from a number of sources, INSI has a wide range of resources and advice [including risk assessment templates] which can be downloaded from their safety pages.
Health issues can be researched via websites such as the American Centre of Disease Control, with many training providers offering remote area or hostile environments first aid training [including us] but there are also a number of useful books and apps. This will be the subject of another post to come shortly.