UNESCO provides safety training to Palestinian media professionals
UNESCO Office in Ramallah and Maan News Network organized a seven-day intensive safety training course for 33 Palestinian journalists, cameramen and photographers in the West Bank. The trainees acquired skills in personal conflict management and safety, risk assessment, surviving in a hostile environment, as well as medical skills.
In addition to the training, UNESCO will donate to media organizations safety equipment, protective vests, helmets and medical kits.
A car carrying a crew of news reporters and cameramen is stopped by militias who have raised a checkpoint on the road. The angry leader of the militias demands to see identification and orders everybody out of the car. "Where are you going? What are you doing?" he shouts to the nervous reporters. An exercise like this feels quite familiar to the trainees from the West Bank who participated in the safety training course in Bethlehem.
The safety of journalists and cameramen working in the Palestinian media both in the West Bank and Gaza Strip has deteriorated rapidly in the past two years following the political infighting and worsening security situation. There have been several attacks against media outlets, confiscation of equipment, and individual journalists and cameramen have been physically assaulted and threatened while they have been carrying out their professional duties. Palestinian media professionals are literally working between the two fires: they are harassed by both the Israeli army and the Palestinian security forces.
"This is the best training course we have ever had. Now I know more on how to protect myself and my colleagues and I will also be able to help injured people", said Muhammad Ganaiem, a programme director from the Palestinian Maan News Network. He was injured in 1999: shot in the leg by an Israeli soldier.
While staff in the international news organizations is often equipped and trained, local media professionals usually do not have resources to protect themselves sufficiently. Local media cannot afford body armour or training courses and are taking daily risks in covering the news events in a conflict situation.
"Both women and men working in the media face similar kind of risks and danger. Firstly, there are risks related to the occupation. Secondly, journalists are under pressure from their own society: some topics and problems are not allowed to report about", one woman journalist told.
Trainees from public and private media, news agencies and television stations received extensive training in how to work in a hostile environment, including personal safety and risk assessment, medical skills, ballistic awareness, vehicle check points, public disorder, mine awareness and post traumatic stress disorder.
After the four-day training course, six participants were selected for an advanced three day training of trainers course to gain more in-depth skills and knowledge and to be able to train and share information on safety matters with their colleagues in the media organizations.
The training was conducted by a British trainer from TOR International, a security and training company based in UK. The Palestinian Red Crescent Society provided a basic first aid course. To compliment the training course, UNESCO will donate in December bullet proof vests, helmets and medical kits to the Palestinian media organizations. The project is been funded by Finland and UNESCO regular budget funds.