How do we keep journos safe on dangerous assignments?

There’s never been a more dangerous time to be journalist.

Amongst bullets, bombs, gag orders and jail cells, the past few years have been a particularly hazardous time to work in the media with hundreds of journalists being killed, kidnapped or detained indefinitely.

Now more than ever, reporters and their crews are no longer the ones getting accidentally caught in the crossfire of conflict zones, they’re the targets.

The question remains for journalists living and working in these dangerous or politically fraught areas: How do we keep safe?

The Red Cross has long been an authority on International Humanitarian Law (IHL) and has dedicated the latest issue of its IHL magazine to journalists and their role within conflict zones.

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Writing for the issue, Co-Director of the Sydney Centre for International Law, Dr Emily Crawford, says journalists and war correspondents have a unique position on the battlefield.

“[Journalists] willingly place themselves in the midst of active hostilities with no means to defend themselves and they risk their lives to report on the events in the conflict,” she writes.

IHL serves to not only protect journalists in warzones, but to hold the parties engaged in conflict accountable for their actions.

 

ABC Foreign Correspondent Matt Brown says this can be difficult, especially when IHL is often disregarded entirely.

“If IHL is not applied equally and evenly and people don’t fear it genuinely, and you don’t see it actually happening then I don’t think it really exists in some ways,” says Brown.

“…it’s a system, at very best, where there’s only some scaffolding.”

Still, the tenets of IHL remain important for journalists working in dangerous areas, not only to offer some form of protection (however slim), but to hold those who wilfully disobey it accountable for their actions.

Issue one of the Australian Red Cross’ International Humanitarian Law magazine can be found at www.redcross.org.au/IHLandjournalism