February 12, 2015 / 11:00 PM / in 3 years

News organizations back safety guidelines for freelance journalists

NEW YORK (Reuters) - More than two dozen news organizations and advocacy groups have agreed to back international safety standards for freelancers in the wake of kidnappings and killings of journalists around the world.

A man holds up a sign in memory of U.S. journalist James Foley during a protest against the Assad regime in Syria in Times Square in New York August 22, 2014. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

The document calls for news organizations that employ full time staffers and freelance journalists “to actively join in a shared commitment to safety and a new spirit of collegiality and concern.”

The guidelines and practices released on Thursday at Columbia University’s Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma were drafted by an international group of freelancers, foreign correspondents, news executives and advocates.

The signers include Reuters, the Associated Press, Bloomberg, the BBC, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and USA Today.

“Reuters is proud to join an unprecedented alliance of top news organizations to work to protect the freelance journalists who play such a vital role in news coverage world-wide,” Reuters Editor in Chief Stephen J. Adler said in a statement.

“At Reuters, we are committed to providing the same levels of security, training, and safety equipment for freelancers as we do for staff reporters working in all the most dangerous places on earth.”

Bruce Shapiro, executive director of the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma, said in a statement, “The role of freelancers in reporting conflict and crisis around the world has grown in significance even as threats rise.

“The news companies, freelance organizations and advocacy groups who came together to support the guidelines all understand that we are in a crisis which demands action.”

The world has grown increasingly hostile to journalists covering wars and dangerous places. At the same, many news organizations, which are trimming costs, rely on freelancers for stories.

According to data from the CPJ, 61 journalists were killed last year, including 13 freelancers. Eight of the freelancers were murdered, including James Foley and Steven Sotloff who were beheaded. (Graphic on journalist deaths: reut.rs/1wrSqyZ)

The safety standards include first aid and hostile environment training, securing medical insurance for conflict zones, and having appropriate equipment such as helmets and vests when on assignment.

The organizations backing the standards said they mark “the first step in a long-term campaign” to get other media companies and journalists to adopt the guidelines.

Reporting by Jennifer Saba; Editing by Toni Reinhold

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