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CPJ issues media safety advisory for covering US presidential inauguration

CPJ issues media safety advisory for covering US presidential inauguration

Sherry Ricchiardi | January 19, 2017

In an unprecedented move, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has issued safety tips for covering the U.S. presidential inauguration on Jan. 20.

CPJ generally focuses on violence against the press in foreign lands. Today, the media is under threat in their own backyard.

Since the launch of his presidential campaign in June 2015, CPJ has been a leading voice against President-elect Donald Trump’s threats to the rights of journalists.

In October 2016, board chairman, Sandra Mims Rowe, called a Trump presidency “a threat to press freedom unknown in modern history.” A special report, “Transition to Trump: Press Freedom in the United States,” is available on the website.

In November, CPJ added a new position to the Emergencies Response Team (ERT). Colin Pereira, former head of security for Britain’s Independent Television News and member of BBC’s security unit, came aboard as chief strategist on journalists’ safety.

“We’re very excited about this. We have an expanded capacity and more research power now,” said ERT director Maria Salazar-Ferro. “CPJ will continue to deepen our coverage of press freedom issues in the United States.”

CPJ has been the recipient of a windfall, to the tune of US$250,000 and counting, since Meryl Streep’s onstage plea to support the group during her Golden Globes speech earlier this month.  

“This means our voice can be louder and more powerful than before,” development director John Weis wrote in a Jan. 10 posting.

Why did CPJ decide to issue the advisory?

“We are in communication with journalists and editors who are concerned the media will be targeted or get caught up in violence,” said Salazar-Ferro.

She noted the safety strategies are also relevant to those covering the Women’s March on Washington, a protest expected to draw tens of thousands on Jan. 21.

Among CPJ’s tips to help keep journalists safe:

  • Always try to work with a colleague and have a regular check-in procedure with your base, particularly if covering rallies or crowd events.

  • Filming/recording equipment will obviously identify you as a journalist. There are times when looking like a journalist is important to signal others, including police, that you are there to observe. In some instances, it is a good idea not to wear identifying logos, clothing or badges related to a media organization, or be able to conceal them if necessary.

  • Keep press credentials out of sight unless it is necessary to show them.

  • At any location, always plan an evacuation route.

Strategies for dealing with aggression:

  • Read body language to identify an aggressor and use your own body language to pacify a situation.

  • Keep eye contact with an aggressor, use open hand gestures and keep talking in a calming manner.

  • If working in a crowd, keep to the outside of the crowd and don’t get sucked into the middle where it is hard to escape. Identify an escape route.

  • If aggression increases, keep a hand free to protect your head and move with short, deliberate steps to avoid falling. If in a team, stick together and link arms.

  • Taking pictures of aggressive individuals can escalate a situation.

If you are attacked, threatened or otherwise intimidated while covering these events, contact CPJ by emailing report_violation@cpj.org. For more detailed safety information, go to the Journalist Security Guide on the CPJ website.

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