Reflections from RISC Training

By Anna Therese Day

 In June, conflict journalists from across the globe headed to New York City’s Bronx Documentary Center to participate in a RISC Training session. RISC Training, Reporters Instructed in Saving Colleagues, is a free medical training for war reporters focused on arming our community with the tools necessary to curb preventable death among our colleagues on the battlefield. 

Risc trainees

RISC Training's 4th Graduating Class; Photo by James Lawler Duggan

Founded by award-winning journalist, writer, and filmmaker Sebastian Junger, RISC Training was born in the wake of the tragic deaths of Tim Hetherington and Chris Hondros in Libya in 2011. Junger, a close friend and creative partner of Tim Hetherington, was deeply troubled to discover that his friend’s death could have been prevented had one of his colleagues known basic first aid. From this place, Junger wanted to create a free training for freelance conflict reporters who often do not have the funds or access to hostile environment training and other security measures that the industry should provide. June’s session was RISC’s fourth training and more than half of the participants were FFR members.

“It’s humbling to spend a week with people who ask questions that begin with ‘Say you’re kidnapped in Syria...’ and ‘How do you know if you’ve fractured your pelvis?’ when you realize those questions aren’t hypotheticals,” reflects RISC grad Jacob Kushner, a freelance reporter whose work has taken him to hotspots like Haiti and the Democratic Republic of Congo. “As news outlets neglect their obligation to train their freelancers for these realities, I’d like to see more of them throw some financial support behind RISC as it assumes that responsibility on their behalf.”


FFR's Cenzig Yar Jr. at RISC Training's 4th Session

FFR's Cenzig Yar Jr. at RISC Training's 4th Session; Photo by James Lawler Duggan


Kidnapping was on the mind of many in the session, some who had been kidnapped themselves and other who still wait in limbo for news on friends and colleagues missing in Syria. The final night of the training, in which a group presentation showcases the work of all the session’s RISC graduates, highlighted the ongoing search for our missing colleagues, James Foley and Austin Tice. Journalist Clare Morgana Gillis read her Syria Deeply reflection on her friend James Foley who has been missing in Syria since November 2012, and FFR member, journalist Christy Wilcox read her piece, My Friend Austin Tice, who has been missing since August 2012, both of which left the audience and our community in deep reflection on the dangerous realities of our work.

“I think the most important take-away from RISC overall was the general knowledge it instilled -- and with that, the confidence to act in situations where inaction may cost lives,” explains FFR member, documentary photographer Cengiz Yar Jr.

Last week, RISC Training’s Deputy Director, Lily Hindy, announced the next session: October 6th-9th at The Frontline Club in London. Applications are still being accepted at the RISC Training website.

Anna Therese Day is a founding board member of the Frontline Freelance Register. She is an independent journalist reporting on the MIddle East and North Africa. You can follow her on the ground via Twitter or Facebook.

FFR's Christy Wilcox presenting on her friend, kidnapped freelancer Austin Tice