Be physically and mentally prepared. Go on a Hostile Environment course
that includes basic first aid training before your assignment if at all
Most conflict zones require an ability at least to run, hike and endure
discomfort. Ensure appropriate jabs and carry basic medical kit with
clean needles. Wear internationally recognised bracelet with caduceus
symbol and record of allergies, blood group etc. If in a conflict area
with US forces, consider writing your blood group on your boots -
that's what American troops do, so thats where their medics would look
Know the background of the people and place of assignment and of the
dispute. Learn a few useful phrases in the local language, most
essentially foreign press or journalist. Know the meaning of local
gestures that might be important.
Do not move alone in a conflict zone. If travelling by road, use a safe
and responsible driver with knowledge of terrain and trouble spots.
Identify your vehicle as media unless that would attract attack. Travel
in close convoy if possible. Do not use military or military-type
vehicles unless accompanying a regular army patrol. Make sure your
vehicle is sound, with plenty of fuel. In hot conditions check tyre
pressures regularly as a blow-out can be disastrous. Know how to change
a tyre and ensure the spare is roadworthy.
Think twice about moving across open, or poorly covered ground, with
troops. Snipers are unlikely to distinguish between combatants and
Seek the advice of local authorities and residents about possible
dangers before travelling. Check the road immediately ahead at safe
intervals. Inform your headquarters and colleagues remaining at base of
where you are going, your intended ETA and expected return. Check in
frequently. Beware of carrying maps with markings that might be
construed as military.
Meet unfamiliar contacts in public places and tell your office or
trusted colleague your plans. Try not to go alone into potential
danger. Plan a fast and safe way out before you enter a danger zone.
Never carry a weapon or travel with journalists who do. Be prudent in
taking pictures. Seek the agreement of soldiers before shooting images.
Know local sensitivities about picture-taking.
Carry picture identification. Do not pretend to be other than a
journalist. Identify yourself clearly if challenged. If working on both
sides of a front line never give information to one side about the
Carry cigarettes and other giveaways as sweeteners. Stay calm and try
to appear relaxed if troops or locals appear threatening. Act friendly
Carry emergency funds and a spare copy of your ID in a concealed place
such as a money belt. Have a giveaway amount ready to hand over.
Keep emergency phone numbers at hand, programmed into satellite and
mobile phones, with a key 24/7 number on speed dial if possible. Know
the location of hospitals and their capabilities.
Familiarise with weapons commonly used in the conflict, their ranges
and penetrating power so you can seek out the most effective cover.
Know incoming from outgoing. Know what landmines and other ordnance
look like. Do not handle abandoned weapons or spent munitions.
Stay alert at all times, even after fighting or explosive event.
Abandoned or apparently spent munitions can explode at any time. A
terror bombing could be followed by a secondary device. Roadside bombs
might be planted in rubbish or dead animals. If in doubt - dont go on.
NEVER ASSUME - PERIOD. Beware - be very aware - of all military in a
war. Many soldiers in combat are poorly trained, young and
inexperienced - and very frightened. They will shoot first if they feel
at all threatened. Do not assume they know who you are, where you are
and what you are doing in the thick of the fighting. Their leaders
might but the boys with the big guns might not. Do not assume they can
see you clearly, especially through their sights. That camera you raise
to your shoulder could be seen as an anti-tank weapon. Hold the camera
low when filming approaching tanks and twitchy soldiers.
Wear civilian clothes unless accredited as a war correspondent and
required to wear special dress. Avoid paramilitary-type clothing. Avoid
carrying shiny objects and exercise care with lenses. Reflections of
bright sunlight can look like gun flashes.
Be prepared to wear flak jackets, body armour, helmets, gas masks and
NBC apparel as appropriate. For demonstrations, use more discreet gear
such as hardened baseball-type hats and light undergarment protection.
18. Know your rights, internationally and locally. Know the Geneva Conventions as they relate to civilians in war zones.
Journalists who have endured high danger and witnessed dreadful events
may experience traumatic stress in later weeks. Do not be embarrassed
to seek counselling.
Do pass on your advice and experience in the conflict to your
colleagues; use the INSI website to post timely information that might
help save a life: Noticeboard