BY Consultant in the Field

SECURITY UPDATE: Reporting in and around Tahrir Square

The advice below will not prevent you being attacked, but it may assist you if you have to report in Tahrir Square.

It may help you avoid getting into a situation that is potentially dangerous - prevention is better than cure!

General comments

National and international females living and working in Cairo have reported an increase in sexual harassment; touching and being exposed to or flashed. Caution is advised in crowds and if walking on deserted streets. Walking alone when dark is not advised in quiet areas.

The main threats are from the following

• Pro and anti Morsi demonstrators (depending on who is demonstrating in the square)

• Street vendors and football fans have been known to be sexually abusive. Often both groups can be very aggressive and cause problems

• Westerners and women may be targeted by local men while walking in the square

Have a plan 

• Decide what your story really is. Think, do you need to go there to get the story? Can you get the story another way?

• Have a plan for emergencies and know the square. Do a map study and plan escape routes. Try to drive around the square and the area on a calm day, so you know the backstreets before you have to walk them

• Broadcast journalists – try to send 3 people and stick together, get height if you can

• Other individuals - try to go together with other journalists if possible as there is safety in numbers

• Women should go with a male colleague and preferably someone who knows the square

• Find a fixer in the square to act as your guide. This may give you some level of protection

• You must take an Arabic/English speaker with you to translate for you

• Think, what time of the day do you need to go to get the story? Can it be done during the day, which is safer than in the dark?

• Consider leaving the square before it gets dark

• Be conscious that foreigners may be seen as spies or Israeli agents and this belief has led to sexual harassment incidents

• Vibes – take a temperature of the mood in the morning – who is there, what are they doing?

• Try not to show disgust at anything going on in the square, it could make things worse for you

Transport and routes in

• Think about transport to get there, have a car on standby as near to the square as possible in the event of an emergency

• Ensure you have communications with your transport, so you can get assistance if you require it

• Consider approaching the square from the west over the bridge as it avoids you having to go through busy eastern areas. However, approaching from the west means you are hemmed in. 

Landmark locations in the square

• Hardees Burger Bar – south east corner 

• South west corner of the square – easy access to the bridge

Clothing

• Wear long trousers with high waists and tight belts

• Wear large knickers under the trousers; tuck a vest top into the knickers underneath any blouse you wear

• Make sure that blouses are large fitting and cover all flesh to the wrist. They should be high necked and not show off your chest

• Avoid wearing jewelry, keep watches in pockets and wear cheap sunglasses

• Consider wearing a lightweight gillet to cover up and if there are pockets you can carry batteries or notebooks in it to give some protection to the chest areas 

• Carry your backpack on your front to cover the breast and intimate areas at the front of the body

Thoughts for consideration

• You can drive round the Square when there is nothing going on, often during the day. Do this to familiarise yourself with the layout

• Lose any feminism ideals and think safety. Egyptian women and foreign women have all been attacked by mobs in the Square. If your fixer or your local guide says it is time to leave, trust them

• Who to send? A woman or a man? Is it safer given the local vibes/temperature to send a man and not a woman?

• It may be safer for the women in the team to stay on the corners of the square and then for the male camera to go forward to get the pictures and then return to the team

Contact INSI if you require an equipment list or further information for working in hostile environments.


Note: INSI has collated this information from journalists on the ground. It has checked it authenticity as much as it can, however can not take any responsibility for ensuing problems as a result of this information.

Photo: Protesters gather in Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt, Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2012. A protest by tens of thousands of Egyptians outside the presidential palace in Cairo turned violent on Tuesday as tensions grew over Islamist President Mohammed Morsi's seizure of nearly unrestricted powers. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)