UNESCO provides safety training to Gaza media professionals
35 media professionals from 20 media outlets in Gaza attended a safety training course, organized by UNESCO's Office in Ramallah and Ma'an Network last August in Cairo. For many participants it was the first time they could travel out of the Gaza Strip. The participants also received psycho-social support in a subsequent workshop on how to deal with the stress and trauma that media professionals in conflict zones often have to endure.
The January 2009 crisis in Gaza has had a critical impact on the press freedom and safety of journalists in the region, highlighting the needs to protect media professionals, and the importance of respecting the independence of journalists and their professional duties in the conflict situation. UNESCO's Office in Ramallah organized two training courses in the framework of a two-year project aimed at promoting freedom of expression and safety of journalists in the occupied Palestinian territory. The courses were financed both by UNESCO's regular programme and IPDC funds.
Obtaining the travel permits for the participants required close coordination with the officials in Gaza, Ramallah and Egypt, and thanks to the cooperation with the Egyptian television the training was organized in Cairo.
"In fact, nobody in Gaza City could believe that we would be able to get such a big group of local journalists and cameramen out of Gaza for the training. It made big news and was an important sign of support for the local media," Valentina Al-Amaa, project manager of Ma'an Network, said.
The course focused on how to work in a hostile environment, personal safety and risk assessment, medical skills, ballistic awareness, vehicle check points and post traumatic stress disorder. The training was conducted by TOR International, a security and training company based in UK. In addition to the training programme, journalists and cameramen were able to meet with Egyptian colleagues and visit local sights.
"It is important for media professionals to get out of such an isolated place like Gaza and be exposed to different cultures and meet other people. It is an experience that has an impact on people and on how they think," the General Manager of Ma'an, Raed Othman, thinks.
Back in Gaza, the journalists and cameramen continued in a workshop on stress management held by mental health experts. Through group discussions, debriefings and peer support media professionals could share their concerns, and find tools to cope with their stressful and often dangerous work.
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