NEW YORK — More global journalism organizations signed on Friday to protections for freelance and local correspondents who face increasingly deadly dangers in the field.
The Guardian News and Media group, Newsweek and the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines are the latest to agree to a set of “principles and practices” that launched Thursday evening in an event at the Columbia University School of Journalism.
Media and advocacy groups including The Associated Press, Reuters, Agence France Press, Bloomberg, the BBC and the Committee to Protect Journalists say “news organizations have a moral responsibility to support journalists to whom they give assignments in dangerous areas.”
The recent beheadings of Japanese journalist Kenji Goto and American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff by Islamic State extremists are some of the most visible examples of the risks to correspondents on the ground.
Creators of the principles say the list of organizations signing on, now numbering about 30, should grow steadily as word of their global campaign spreads.
“Everyone who signed understands what we see day in and day out, that dangers to freelancers on assignments is actually a danger to the press to do its job,” said Bruce Shapiro, executive director of the New York-based Dart Center for Journalism & Trauma.
Of the 61 journalists killed around the world last year because of their work, 13 were freelancers, the Committee to Protect Journalists says. Reporters Without Borders, which has signed on to the new guidelines, lists at least seven freelancers among its own count of 69 journalists killed last year.
The guidelines urge news organizations to treat their regular freelance and local correspondents as they treat their staffers in safety and training, and to be prepared to take similar responsibility in case of kidnapping or injury.
The principles also urge journalists working in dangerous areas to obtain the basic training and equipment to care for themselves or injured colleagues and to have a planning and communications strategy with news organizations while on assignment. They should also engage in a strict risk assessment with their editors, measuring the journalistic value of the story against the dangers they may face.
News organizations ought to give freelancers “prompt payment” and fair recognition of their work, according to the principles.
Board members of the Frontline Freelance Register, a registry of more than 500 global correspondents, call the principles a good first step. “We’re going to continue pushing for more in the coming months with emphasis on fair pay as well, but that will be for later,” said Nicole Tung, a board member and freelance photojournalist.
“Will the guidelines evolve? Possibly. Probably,” Shapiro said. He called them one step in an ongoing process.
He said some news organizations have debated whether the principles are binding or aspirational, and that “some groups who work actively with freelancers feel there’s too much ‘should’ in this document and not enough ‘must.'”