New York, October 29, 2003–The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) today released an updated version of its journalist security handbook, titled “On Assignment: A Guide to Reporting in Dangerous Situations.” This new edition, which is available in hard copy and online (read or download PDF), draws on lessons learned in the most recent war in Iraq and includes advice on coping with the sustained risks that so many local journalists and their families confront on a daily basis.
The handbook, which is geared toward editors and journalists, provides a comprehensive overview of security issues, as well as resources and practical information on topics ranging from training and insurance to body armor and the rules of war. While CPJ recognizes that no handbook or training course can guarantee a journalist’s safety, being better prepared can help to minimize the risks journalists face.
The vulnerability of journalists
Recent fatalities in Iraq illustrate the dangers faced by war correspondents. Twelve journalists have been killed in action since the war in Iraq began on March 19, several more have died from either medical conditions that proved fatal in the field or from road accidents, and two remain missing. 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.
Despite these tragic losses within the journalistic community, CPJ research shows that the majority of journalists killed are not war correspondents. Between 1993 and 2002, CPJ has documented 366 confirmed cases of journalists who were killed while carrying out their work. While conflict and war provide the backdrop to much of the violence against the press, CPJ research demonstrates that the vast majority (76 percent) of journalists killed since 1993 did not die in crossfire but were hunted down and murdered.
With this handbook, CPJ hopes to encourage journalists around the world 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.