More help for freelance war reporters

By Camilla Capasso

A new organisation has been launched to help protect freelance war reporters.

The Frontline Freelance Register will support the work of freelancers reporting from war zones by offering them the kind of back up staff reporters get from media organisations.

The founder of the register and managing director of the Frontline Club London, Vaughan Smith, told London Journalism Centre that the initiative will give freelancers a voice.

“We want to encourage freelancers to work towards best practice on safety and help build clear industry standards so that the freelancers can demonstrate professionalism to their main customers, the news organisations,” he said.

The freelance register will also make sure that its members observe responsible newsgathering standards. The organisation has drawn up a code of conduct which includes safety recommendations and an ethics code.

Freelancers signing up to the register are required to learn about safety – where and when to use bullet proof clothing for instance – and to uphold and defend the principle of free speech.

Smith has been working on this project for a long time.

“I have been planning to launch a body to represent freelancers who take risk in the course of their work for a decade or so, “he says. “It became a reality when I met up with Emma Beals and a freelancer crowd working in Syria who were seeking to lobby for better support and acknowledgement.”

Around the 20% of journalists are currently employed on freelance contracts but, according to Smith, the media industry has difficulties determining its policies for freelance war reporters.

“We want to promote a more accurate picture of these independent operators,” he says, “They are fast becoming the most experienced war journalists in the trade as the industry struggles to accommodate the risks”.