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“Knowledge is power”: journalists in Kisumu learn how to stay safe on the job

“Knowledge is power”: journalists in Kisumu learn how to stay safe on the job

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When journalists meet, there is bound to be a lot of talk on current affairs and powerful stories of the week, sharing of lighthearted stories, humour and lots of laughter. There will be arguments on matters of national interest and, of course, talk about experiences in their line of duty.

By Valerie Koga

It was no surprise then when these scenarios played out in Kisumu, Kenya from 31 May to 2 June, when a number of journalists met for a safety training sponsored by WAN-IFRA’s Strengthening Media and Society (SMS) programme. The training was organised by the Kenyan Media Freedom Committee (MFC) in collaboration with IREX.

Physical safety, digital safety, psychological well-being, sexual harassment, and how to avoid and deal with misinformation featured prominently as the journalists discussed how these issues affected them personally and at work.

Questions that popped up throughout the meeting included: How secure is your phone and computer? How safe and confident do you feel in your work? How do you protect sensitive information? Many also wondered about the best way to make good editorial judgements, retain a better work-life balance, deal with emotional trauma after covering distressing stories and verify information to avoid spreading fake news.

Experienced editors mentored participants, telling them about their experiences, encouraging them to continue working, and advising them to be professional and have passion for what they do.

The adage “knowledge is power” featured prominently throughout the day, and colleagues encouraged each other to research and always ask difficult questions to avoid being a conduit for misinformation and fake news.

In order to tackle fake news, trainers emphasised fact-checking, offering up various tools that journalists can use to verify information, check for authenticity of photos and videos, and do more research on the topics they’re reporting on.

And the safety of sources and personal safety were two primary concerns for journalists, who said that after the training they were more aware of measures to take to ensure their safety.

“Digital platforms have become an integral tool and I wasn’t aware of the amount of footprints I leave behind when I access the internet,” said participant Hilton Otenyo. “I have learned how to minimise this and believe I am now more secure.”

“I learned it’s critical to know that what we say or do online is permanent and we should educate colleagues, friends and even family members,” said fellow participant Faith Matete. “I also learned how to plan for safety as a reporter while undertaking my assignments and duties.”

Planning for all eventualities when going out for assignments seemed to have a major impact as almost all the journalists who attended the training said they were grateful for the lessons and tips.

That was certainly true for Gaitanoh Pessah, who said it helped him see gaps in preparing for assignments and how to work better with colleagues as a team. He is now in a better position, he adds, to effectively plan for field work and more aware of how to interact with people online.

To cap off the training, an intense discussion on sexual harassment took place, which was an eye-opener for many who discovered what the term truly means, the forms it can take, and that men can also be harassed. Many recommended more awareness on the issue and how action can be taken against perpetrators.

Overall, the safety training highlighted how to take precautions, plan effectively and get help after traumatic experiences. And most importantly, participants learned the importance of taking such discussions on journalist safety forward.

“Most [journalists] experience various challenges and are afraid to share them,” said participant Raylenne Kambua, who learned how to secure information on mobile phones and computers as well as tactics to deal with emotional and psychological issues on the job. “After the training, I shared with my colleagues some ways they can use to cope with the challenges and how to develop resilience.”


Andrew Heslop's picture

Andrew Heslop


2018-06-26 14:40

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In countless countries, journalists, editors and publishers are physically attacked, imprisoned, censored, suspended or harassed for their work. WAN-IFRA is committed to defending freedom of expression by promoting a free and independent press around the world. Read more ...