On Assignment: Covering Conflicts Safely


New York, February 27, 2003–In an effort to prepare journalists for potentially hazardous reporting duties in conflict zones, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) today released an online journalist security handbook, titled “On Assignment: Covering Conflict Safely” (click here). The handbook, which is geared toward editors and journalists covering conflict, provides a comprehensive overview of security issues with resources and practical information on topics ranging from training and insurance to body armor and the rules of war.

No handbook or training course can guarantee a journalist’s safety, but being better prepared can help to minimize the risks journalists face.

A print version of the handbook will be published later.

Increased vulnerability
As a possible war in Iraq looms, journalists everywhere have a heightened sense of vulnerability. The abduction and murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl early last year and the November 2001 deaths of eight journalists covering the war in Afghanistan shocked the world, raising many security issues for journalists in the field. Although many news organizations are now taking measures to better protect their staff–including sending them to hostile-environment training courses–far too many journalists still cover conflicts without the proper preparation.

With this handbook, CPJ hopes to encourage journalists to better educate and protect themselves and their colleagues. The handbook was written by CPJ Washington, D.C., representative and journalist security coordinator Frank Smyth, with input from CPJ staff and journalists worldwide. Smyth has covered conflicts in El Salvador, Colombia, Rwanda, Sudan, and Iraq. In 1991, just after the Gulf War, Iraqi authorities detained him for 18 days.

“Now, more than ever, journalists need to be aware of battlefield dangers and how to mitigate them,” said Smyth. “Journalists should be prepared in terms of knowledge, and their employers should be prepared, as well.”

CPJ launches press freedom information resource for journalists covering the Gulf
In preparation for a possible U.S.-led attack on Iraq, CPJ today also launched a press freedom information resource on its Web site titled “Buildup in the Gulf” (click here). The report features a brief analysis of potential challenges to the press, background information on the region, and links to articles about issues facing journalists covering the conflict.