The safety of journalists is an issue that continues to plague journalism. Despite more and more training, excellent safety support organizations, and increased funding, threats only continue to grow and evolve. Due to increasingly autocratic leadership throughout the world, journalists are often the proverbial nails that stick up and are at risk of being pounded down.
Seventy percent of journalists killed are killed for their work, and yet, this is the area of journalism in which safety training is hardest to account for. Training organizations teach journalists a variety of skills, and their approaches are at times quite innovative and different. But complicating matters is the fact that threat issues are very local and specific to the person making the threat and the story involved.
Many news organizations have developed sophisticated, localized training programs that address their needs, but others remain ignorant of procedures that can make journalists safer. Some training organizations do not have experience sufficient to counter the ever-changing nature of threats to journalists, and certain organizations lack even the basic skills in this area, so it’s no surprise that too many investigative reporters say they don’t feel they have sufficient training to protect themselves. Reporters are dying; if they had been given proper training, that wouldn’t be the case as frequently.
OCCRP, the world's largest investigative reporting organization, the GFMD, and the Open Society Foundation want to train those who train at-risk journalists themselves on this issue. To this end, we are hosting an experience-sharing meeting between at-risk journalists and safety training organizations to discuss best practices. Present will be organizations that offer successful training programs, some of the world’s most at-risk investigative journalists who have looked closely at quantifying their risks, training organizations that do this daily all over the world, and other safety specialists. All the participants bring unique skill sets to the program. Its goal is straightforward but complex to achieve—to develop a set of best practices for training at-risk investigative reporters. “If it keeps just one reporter alive, it will be worth it,” says Drew Sullivan, editor and cofounder of OCCRP.
The safety workshop is cohosted by GFMD and OCCRP in Brussels from September 8th to the 10th. This workshop, which will include roundtable discussions aimed at sharing experiences and best practices, will result in the publication of a safety manual aimed specifically at investigative journalists.
As a follow-up to the workshop, OCCRP in collaboration with GFMD and OSF is hosting an experience-sharing webinar for at-risk journalists and safety-training organizations to discuss their best practices. The webinar will be hosted by OCCRP’s Drew Sullivan, who will present discussions and findings from the workshop and talk about the manual to be published based on these findings. The webinar will take place September 11 at 13:00 Brussels time (CET summer time). The Webinar is for GFMD members only.