INSI's Annual Report 2022 has been released. Download it now.
As INSI prepares to celebrate its 20th anniversary in 2023, there is no doubt in my mind that over the past two decades of activity promoting high safety standards in the news media industry our members have affected a sea change.
Many colleagues will still remember when staying safe in a war zone was mostly down to the journalists themselves. “He’s very experienced” or “She’s seen it all before” used to pretty much sum up many news organisations’ relationship with risk ownership, with an old flak jacket and ballistic helmet thrown in for good measure.
For some outlets around the world, regrettably, this may still be the case. This is certainly not so for INSI members, who, by fully owning their teams’ risk in the field and providing them with the training, tools and back-up they need, are setting impressive standards of risk management within their own organisations and across the wider news media industry.
Today, every news organisation that makes up the INSI network of more than 50 of the world’s leading news organisations has, depending on its size and needs, at least one senior role, often several, with direct involvement in and responsibility for editorial safety. They also have access to a host of very specialised and highly skilled media safety professionals to turn to for risk advice and on-the-ground support.
It should not be any other way, no matter the price tag. With our activities at INSI we hope to help spread this mantra ever further and wider in our industry.
This year’s conflict in Ukraine, where so many seasoned journalists have been killed and injured, sadly reminded us that experience, even when coupled with top-notch training and personal protective equipment (PPE), is not always enough to protect journalists and media workers thrust overnight into the hell of war. While there is no such thing as a risk-free frontline assignment, risk and its context are both specific and dynamic. The news industry’s approach to safety should be the same.
The war in Ukraine is again a case in point. INSI members were quick to adapt after realising that the skills and experiences that so many of their own staff had acquired through decades of frontline reporting across the Middle East and through their regular safety training were often different from the set of skills and military nous that were needed to stay alive along Ukraine’s frontlines. The environment, the language, the threats and the weapons there were totally different from Afghanistan, Syria or Iraq. The balance of power was also reversed. For the first time in decades, international journalists found themselves covering a major conflict from the weaker side of the invaded, rather than from that of the stronger invader.
In response to this new and dangerous scenario, everything had to be reviewed. Training courses were adapted and updated and new safety protocols and practices were discussed and implemented. Also, very importantly, our members shared information, experiences, dilemmas and possible solutions with one another in real time, to better support their international and local staff both physically and psychologically.
Many of INSI’s members are fortunate to work with talented and experienced safety advisors who are invaluable in supporting the best of news journalism. They include trailblazing professionals such as Mark Grant who, between top jobs at CNN and Sky News, pursued a doctorate in security risk management with a ground-breaking thesis on risk management in support of frontline reporting. Mark’s seminal project is the first work of this kind and scope and we are delighted to publish it on our website.
This year has proved that news safety management is emerging as a fully-fledged discipline and, as we work together to continue improving standards, the lessons learned by news teams in the field often at great personal cost should become a life-saving body of reference for all.
– Elena Cosentino, INSI director
Read more in INSI's Annual Report 2022 here.
Image by AFP