New standards aim to protect freelancers at risk

February 12, 2015 5:30 PM ET

Press freedom groups, journalists, and news organizations codify global guidelines

New York, February 12, 2015--A global network of freelance journalists, news media companies, advocacy organizations, and journalist safety groups today released a set of guidelines for freelance journalists working dangerous assignments and news organizations making such assignments. The guidelines represent unprecedented collaboration aimed at protecting freelancers in one of the most dangerous times on record for journalists. The Committee to Protect Journalists was part of this task force.

In 2014, 61 journalists were killed for their work, one-fifth of who were freelancers, according to CPJ research. The murders of James Foley and Steven Sotloff underscored the dangers. The killing of journalists continues at a strong pace, with at least 15 journalists killed for their work in January this year. More than one third of them were freelancers.

"More journalists have been killed or kidnapped in the last three years than in any period since we began keeping records," said CPJ Deputy Director Robert Mahoney. "Against that backdrop, the news industry could not throw up its hands and carry on with business as usual. These principles and practices are an important first step towards improving safety for all journalists covering dangerous assignments. Freelancers commit to follow recognized security procedures and acquire the requisite skills, while news outlets undertake to treat freelancers fairly and show the same concern for their welfare as they do for that of their own staff. We hope this will become the new industry standard."

The guidelines combine practical advice for journalists--such as having protective ballistic clothing, completing an industry standard hostile environment training course, obtaining appropriate insurance, and securing mobile and digital communications--with standards for news organizations that hire. A core principle is that news outlets must treat local journalists and freelancers in the same manner that they treat members of staff. The standards suggest that news organizations not assign a freelancer to cover a dangerous assignment unless it is willing to take the same responsibility for that freelancer's wellbeing as it would a staffer.

The new guidelines have attracted widespread support from international news media and journalist advocacy organizations. Prominent signatories include The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse, BBC, CPJ, Global Post, the Frontline Freelance Register, Reuters, Reporters Without Borders, the Rory Peck Trust, and RISC (Reporters Instructed in Saving Colleagues). The group will work to advocate that the guidelines become the standard for all news organizations sending journalists on dangerous assignments.

The guidelines will be launched at an event Thursday at Columbia University in New York City, featuring panelists from CPJ, AP, Reuters, the Ground Truth Project, and prominent freelance journalists.

Read the full guidelines here.

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CPJ is a global, independent, nonprofit organization that works to safeguard press freedom worldwide

Media Contact:

Samantha Libby

Advocacy Officer

[email protected]

+1 212-300-9007

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