BY Anna Bevan

Chaos breeds in the aftermath of a terrorist attack: INSI May update

When a group of strangers race toward you, a combination of fear and confusion etched across their faces, you know immediately what they are running from. When parents are dragging their screaming children and yelling at you to follow, you don’t need to be able to speak their language to intuit what to do.

I was walking to Stockholm Central Train Station on a Friday afternoon when a truck deliberately crashed into a department store, two blocks from me, killing five people. Luckily the explosives inside the vehicle failed to detonate or the death toll would have been far higher.

Chaos breeds in the aftermath of a terrorist attack. You may have survived the first onslaught, but you don’t know how many more will follow, and the public officials you search for in an emergency haven’t yet arrived. So people look to the media, and keep looking to it, to sift through the rumours and speculation and find out what’s going on. That’s why journalists run towards the explosions and the gunfire, rather than away from them: out of a duty to inform.

The difficulty of reporting on your own home city coming under attack 

As riot police descended on Stockholm and began cordoning off roads and diverting people away, journalists started reporting on a terror attack in their own city. Standing in front of a department store they’d once taken their kids to shop in, on a street where they’d once met friends for a drink, they talked about terrorism, casualties and threat assessments.   

The difficulty of reporting on your own home city coming under attack is just one topic we discussed at our expert meeting in Berlin on how to cover domestic terrorism. Our members shared what they had learned from the all too frequent attacks they’d covered and we deliberated over how to keep journalists safer before, during and after an incident. Suggestions included always having a logistics car available with security and transmissions equipment inside to deploy immediately, and the importance of offering voluntary and confidential psychological trauma support to colleagues.

Just hours later, a bomb exploded in Manchester.

The front line has changed and newsrooms need to be prepared. At a time when society is swamped with vast amounts of information, and misinformation, reporting fairly, accurately and safely is more important than ever.

INSI holds journalism safety workshop in Hamburg

Our journalists’ safety workshop at the IPI World Congress in Hamburg focused on how managers and media staff can better prepare themselves and their newsrooms to deal with the physical, emotional and digital threats to journalists’ safety.

The horrors we are witnessing in Europe are experiences our colleagues around the world had to become accustomed to long ago.

This week, an explosion in Kabul killed at least 90 people, including a number of media workers. A driver for the BBC and an employee of the Afghan broadcaster TOLO TV were among those who died. 

Journalists Javier Valdez, from Mexico, and Dmitry Popkov, from Russia, also lost their lives in May. They were both shot dead. Their deaths underscore the insurmountable pressure and daily threats journalists around the world operate under, and the need for the international community to do more to end impunity and protect freedom of expression.