THE WAR IN UKRAINE IS TESTING
THE SAFETY COMMITMENT OF INTERNATIONAL NEWS ORGANIZATIONS AND FREELANCE JOURNALISTS
A Statement from the ACOS Alliance
17 March 2022
The invasion of Ukraine is in its 22nd day and already it is proving to be a devastatingly challenging conflict for journalists to cover, with a porous, rapidly-changing frontline, escalating airstrikes against civilians and the prospect of multiple areas under siege. Dangers from direct and indirect fire, unexploded ordinances, digital security threats and rogue elements are adding to the growing and varied list of risks for journalists. In just a short period of time, journalists have been killed and seriously injured, they have come under fire and under siege, and at least one has gone missing.
The ACOS Alliance, a coalition of 129 news organizations, freelance journalist associations and press freedom groups, is extremely concerned about the safety of journalists operating in this dangerous and volatile situation, particularly freelancers, local journalists and media workers who may be working without the support of news organizations. We urge international news organizations and freelance journalists working in Ukraine to adopt the ACOS Principles as a matter of urgency.
International news organizations have a moral responsibility to support the journalists they commission and to show the same concern for the welfare and safety of freelancers, local journalists and media workers as they do for their staff. In making assignments in a conflict zone or dangerous environment international news organizations should be prepared to take comparable responsibility for the well-being of freelancers and local journalists in case of kidnapping or injury as they do for staffers, and for their families in case of death.
International news organizations should also factor in the additional costs of working in a hostile environment, such as personal protective equipment (PPE), insurance, secure communications, hazard pay, and contingency cash for entire teams, including local producers, translators and drivers. Ensuring fair and prompt payment and providing agreed upon expenses in advance is essential. International journalists should be able to count on the full support of a commissioning media outlet before entering Ukraine, and during their time on the ground. This support should be extended to local producers, stringers and media workers.
We also call on international freelance journalists to complete a careful risk assessment before traveling to Ukraine, and to measure the journalistic value of their assignment against their own safety abilities, skills, funding, equipment and knowledge. On assignment, journalists should plan and prepare in detail how they will operate, including identifying routes, transport, contacts and a clear communications strategy with editors and/or colleagues. They should be mindful of the devastating situation that local journalists find themselves in and avoid adding pressure to the already-stretched resources of the Ukrainian media.
There is a worldwide shortage of PPE and we strongly discourage any international freelance journalist, photojournalist or filmmaker from traveling to Ukraine without previously sourcing the appropriate safety equipment. This is to avoid putting pressure on the limited supply that media assistance organizations are gathering to support locally-based journalists and media workers.
The ACOS Principles are a set of global safety standards which were developed to safeguard the lives of freelancers, local journalists and media workers and outline ways in which news organizations and freelancers can work together ethically and professionally. The safety situation in Ukraine is grave. We urge media organizations and journalists to support each other to embed a culture of safety in their working practices and protect their vital role in global society.