FFR endorses the Frontline Club Charitable Trust’s initiative to establish an industry recognised standard for safety training that is endorsed by stakeholders in the news media industry. ACOS, FFR and Frontline Club reinforced the initiative at a meeting with key stakeholders in October 2018.
News organizations increasingly rely on freelancers and local journalists to maintain their foreign news output, particularly to cover stories from places that are difficult to access and report from. Safety training is now considered essential best practice for journalists working on challenging stories. However, the absence of industry-wide standards on safety training leaves both journalists and outlets at a disadvantage: it discourages freelancers from investing in their own safety skills and, at the same time, it is difficult for news organizations to assess whether a freelancer has done a course that meets their requirements.
The lack of collaboration around the understanding of training standards has led to the inability to establish consensus around best practices for safety training, promoting professionalism and duty of care in the news-gathering community.
There are a large number of training providers all offering different standards of training and different curriculums. Traditionally, safety training is provided by external training providers or some news organisations conduct internal training. There are also a number of NGOs who offer training free or at subsidised rates.
The curriculums’ of the training providers varies considerably and it is often unclear what they teach on the courses. Security personnel working for a news organisations have a select list of training providers as preferred suppliers for their staff journalists, but this list is generally small. Most news organisations security personnel do not have the time to vet a large number of providers.
Freelance journalists do not know which providers are acceptable to the news organisations and for them, working on small budgets and spread out across the globe, the selection of a training provider is often based on:
- What course is available in their area.
- What course they can afford.
- If there is a subsidised rates on a course
When a freelance journalist pitches a dangerous deployment to a news organisation, the organisation’s security personnel will have to view the training qualification of the freelancer. There is a high chance that the news organisation will not have any information of the quality of the course the individual has done and will be forced to turn down the pitch.
This is often because if there was to be an incident/accident – part of the insurance claim requirement will be that the news organisation has done its due diligence on the suitability of the individual being deployed. If the incident/accident is related to the deployed individual’s poor training which was not checked – the claim could potentially be denied. So as such the news organisation will play it safe.
This initiative seeks to address these issues by working with key stakeholders to identify safety training courses which meet a baseline requirement that will be widely recognized by the news media industry. This will encourage freelance and local journalists to make informed decisions about their safety training choices and opportunities. And news organizations will be able to identify freelance and local journalists who have completed safety training that meets their safety standards and duty of care.
FFR is working closely with Frontline Club and ACOS Alliance to establish an safety training curriculum that will be adopted as an industry standard and advocating for its endorsement by stakeholders from the media and NGO sectors.