Reporters Respond, emergency assistance for journalists

Every year, thousands of journalists, photographers and camera-people run into serious trouble in the course of their work. Standing up for people’s right to information, they often pay a heavy price personally: their cameras and computers are destroyed, they receive anonymous threats over the phone, the police raid their home or they are physically assaulted or arrested. Free Press Unlimited works to help these journalists via the Reporters Respond emergency assistance fund.

Journalists can submit a request for assistance from Reporters Respond via Free Press Unlimited’s website, where individual applications are reviewed by a number of our team members. In principle, they strive to respond to journalists’ requests within 24 hours. To this end, Reporters Respond works with a worldwide network of organisations that support media initiatives, “If we don’t have any local contacts of our own, one of the other organisations in our network will,” says Free Press Unlimited Director Leon Willems.

The purpose of the emergency assistance fund is to get journalists back to work as soon as possible. In 2016, we provided direct support to 50 journalists and referred 11 applicants to other organisations. Most of this assistance was provided to reporters in Sub-Saharan Africa and the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region. In 13 cases, we replaced equipment that had been destroyed, and we helped a total of 20 journalists to get out of their country.

Threatened, assaulted, forced to flee

Freelance investigative reporter Ray Mwareya from Zimbabwe knows first-hand what kind of difference the fund can make. In June 2016, he contacted Reporters Respond and requested the fund’s assistance. After publishing a number of investigative reports – including articles about the role of corrupt politicians in the Zimbabwean coffee industry – Mwareya was subjected to long-term surveillance, threats and physical attacks. Ultimately, he saw no other option but to flee to South Africa. “There was no way I could go back home. Either I would disappear at the airport, or I would be arrested at home and probably tortured,” says Mwareya.

Reporters Respond decided to help Mwareya directly. “Thanks to your support, I was able to continue working as an investigative reporter. The result: four award-winning stories,” he says with pride. Mwareya is once again publishing a variety of articles in the local and international media about subjects like human trafficking, land grabbing, genital mutilation and violence against lesbians.

Safety in Iraq

Free Press Unlimited also provides other forms of emergency assistance. For example, in 2016, it offered Iraqi journalists and fixers (local contacts who help foreign journalists in their work) a medical safety training. In addition, the participants were taught how to assess risks in their work environment more effectively. These journalists – many of whom had enjoyed no prior training – were involved in very dangerous work in the frontlines of the Mosul offensive against ISIS. The trainings helped them to prepare more effectively for the associated dangers.

Through our emergency assistance fund and safety trainings, we aim to help journalists in conflict areas to – as far as this is possible – ‘simply’ do their job: provide the public with reliable, unbiased information.

Established in: 2011
Donor: Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Contribution: € 150,000

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