Training helps save reporters
All ears: Journalists chat with Martin Unternahrer (right) of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) after his presentation at the training workshop. (JP/Kurniawan Hari)
Working as a journalist in the Afghan capital of Kabul, Mohammad Jawid Omid has to deal with a hostile environment every day. Mortar attacks and suicide bombings are common things in this country, which has been torn by never-ending armed conflicts.
Omid recalled how he had to rush his colleague to a hospital following a mortar attack that hit his office. Omid carried his friend to an ambulance, which later brought his fellow newsman to a hospital where he got surgery.
It seemed the assistance given to the injured was acceptable. But, when Omid shared his experience with people from Bastion, a Moscow-based training organization for journalists, the Russian institute seriously questioned the first-aid given to the injured.
“Bringing the wounded to a clinic or a hospital was a correct decision. But, did you apply a bandage on the wound before bringing your friend for further medical treatment?” asked Gennady G Dzyuba, founder and director of Bastion, during the Global Training on Reporters’ Safety 2012 organized by the World Media Summit (WMS) secretariat in Beijing recently.
According to Gennady, journalists must cover the wounds to prevent bleeding before bringing the injured to a hospital for further treatment. This practical knowledge is just one of the lessons Bastion passes along during its training sessions for journalists.
Given the importance of such practical knowledge for journalists working in extreme environments, Bastion has appealed to media organizations in Russia to send their reporters for training as part of their preparations before being sent to a conflict zone for reporting.
The training provides journalists with practical knowledge on weaponry, medication and survival strategies.
The lessons shared during the course, Gennady said, included how to deal with injured people, how to recognize mines, what to do in a mine field and how to deal with mass disorder. The journalistic course also talks about types of protective clothes, combat hardware and how to rescue hostages.
Gennady said many journalists that were taken hostages had eventually lost their lives because of their inadequate training. During the course, journalists are coached by persons who have survived inhumane conditions as hostage, living with torture in dark basements or pits.
The importance of such practical training on military weaponry was also shared by Edward Wong, an American correspondent of The New York Times who once was assigned to Iraq and Afghanistan.
Given the hazardous environment, Edward also attended a journalistic training particularly on practical knowledge about the war in Iraq before he flew to Baghdad for his assignment. Practical knowledge he gained helped him in dealing with the hostile environment.
Of course, some journalists were embedded with Coalition forces during the war in Iraq. But, surely the stories they produce only tell one side of the story. To produce a balanced story on the Iraq war, some media organizations also sent journalists independently to other locations.
Sohaib Jassim, Al-Jazeera’s Jakarta bureau chief, confirmed his media organization sent different teams to cover the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Aside from the journalist embedded with the Coalition forces, he said, Al-Jazeera also sent journalists to other different locations.
“They gave different perspectives and made the story more balanced,” Sohaib added.
While such practical training is important, Sohaib says, another important thing is that when you are on a foreign assignment, it is crucial to employ a native correspondent, a stringer or a fixer in the country.
“He or she will tell you when to leave a hostile situation be it communal conflict, violent demonstration or ethnic tension. That is the time when you have to leave the scene and forget journalism. Our safety is a priority,” Sohaib said.
— JP/Kurniawan Hari