Guarding against physical attack

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Physical attacks such as assault, mugging, kidnap for a ransom or arbitrary arrest is not new to journalists, and it is common in politically volatile times.

There is no expertise in managing these, but all that can be shared is taking the necessary precaution. Journalists have a duty to conduct a threat analysis of their environment and act accordingly.

The following are the precautions

  • Travel in teams while covering volatile areas.
  • It is important to ensure that editors and perhaps a trusted people, including family members are in the know your plans. Experts have also advised that a contingency plan with contact information for people and groups to call in the event of any threats is very pertinent.
  • If taken captive, one of the first things assailants may do is research your name online. Every detail online can be seen and accessed by abductors: work station, stories covered, education profile, personal and professional associations, among others. It’s advisable that reporters try as much as necessary to limit the personal details or political leanings you reveal in your online profile.
  • Prepare psychologically to answer tough questions about your family, finances, reporting, and political associations. Also, as indicated in the tips above it is advisable to do comprehensive Hostile environment training includes coping mechanisms and survival techniques.
  • Learn survival tactics, including a relationship with captors, and how to appease them and maintaining emotional equanimity. Promises of release may not be forthcoming; threats of execution
  • Opportunities for escape may arise during captivity, but many veteran journalists and security experts warn that the chance of success is exceedingly slim and must be balanced against the potentially fatal consequences of failure.

In times of captivity editors and family members are encouraged to work together. As soon as the captive situation is confirmed, they should get in touch with authorities and engage each other for negotiation.