The horrendous assaults on scores of journalists at the peak of the Egyptian uprising raised serious questions about their safety when they cover such upheavals – and they are many more in the pipeline.
The IFJ responded to the events in Cairo by issuing a detailed safety advisory on how to prepare, what to do at the scene and when the situation turns ugly, what to carry, and what to do when attacked with tear gas, when arrested and when confronting road blocks. Several hotlines were set up to give further advice and deal with personal cases. But is this enough?
For many years, the IFJ worked with the International News Safety Institute to provide training for journalists in conflict zones. Much of this training is tailored for war and armed conflict. What happened in Egypt goes beyond journalists having to prepare themselves for demonstrations. The deliberate targeting of journalists by the security forces, police, army and pro-government paid thugs raises new questions about the safety of journalists covering these upheavals. Foreign correspondents are the high profile casualties, but most victims remain local.
With more demonstrations taking place in Libya, Bahrain, Yemen, Morocco and Iran, journalists will be again in danger as it has become clear that governments in these countries will not hesitate to use violence to stop coverage of these upheavals.
Last night ABC news journalists Miguel Marquez was set upon by Bahraini security forces near Pearl Square and beaten with clubs.
The serious sexual assault against CBS correspondent Lara Logan brings up another dimension – the risk of sexual violence and harassment against journalists. The attack against Logan took place in Cairo’s Tahrir Square while she was surrounded by frenzied anti-Mubarak protesters celebrating his exit. She was saved by a group of women and soldiers.
The IFJ has on many occasions discussed safety issues concerning women covering conflict and worked with INSI to determine specific safety considerations, procedure and equipment, for women journalists. A global survey Women Reporting War was organised and its finding discussed by IFJ affiliates. The IFJ also worked hard to raise awareness on this issue in regions such as the Democratic Republic of Congo where attacks against women, involving systematic rape, are rife. Last September we organised at a pan-African conference on safety and protection of African journalists held at the African Union in Addis Ababa a special workshop on the challenges of women reporting wars. The attack on Logan must remind us that, while advising journalists about how to keep safe when reporting these demonstrations, we must set out gender-specific training for women journalists.