Journalists have always found themselves the target of mindless violence when covering stories of public disorder. Those journalists of the old school ironically hark back to the ‘good ole days’ of flying bricks and bottles while covering the union strikes of the ’70s.
In recent times, however, there has been a notable shift in the kind of violence that pertains at such incidents, like the riots seen in Birmingham during 2005 and those witnessed at football matches. Firstly, with the use of mobile technology the incidents seem to be a lot more orchestrated, involve knives and, increasingly, guns of one sort or another. The situation has become a great deal more dangerous for those journalists sent to cover the story.
The Institute has become increasingly worried about the possibility of serious harm coming to a journalist covering such incidents and has, for some time, claimed that without proper training and safety equipment it is only a matter of time before someone gets injured.
A recent report by the Association of Chief Police Officers claims that knife attacks in counties that are normally considered as benign rural areas have increased in the last couple of years – such as Lincolnshire (24 per cent) and Devon (41 per cent). The Institute contends that this is worrying proof that violent action is no longer an inner city, or sink estate, problem and journalists throughout the country could find themselves covering public unrest stories without adequate ‘safety first’ training or protective clothing.
It could be argued that to send journalists into dangerous situations without adequate training and safety equipment contravenes health and safety regulations for the UK. Certainly, it is the Institute’s view that to do so ignores the moral obligation employers have toward their staff.
For the sake of a couple of hundred pounds, photographers and journalists can be equipped with a stab proof vest which would go a long way to preventing serious harm. It is the Institute’s view that it is time for newspaper proprietors and broadcasting organisations to take responsibility for their staff and issue these items as standard equipment.
The Institute has produced a guide giving advice on basic safety for journalists who may find themselves on the front line of newsgathering. Click here to view the guide in pdf format or click the links on to the right of this page.
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More information on what the Institute has said about safety can be found on our news page on this site.