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09.08.2016 - UNESCO Office in Doha

Strengthening the safety of Yemeni journalists in Taiz

A medical doctor explains first aid techniques to a team of Yemeni journalists working in Taiz to protect their lives while reporting from the frontline ©UNESCO

In a conflict zone, building up the safety skills and knowledge of journalists reporting from the frontline is essential to ensure free flow of information to the public. The situation in Yemen has called for urgent measures to protect the safety of media workers and it is as part of this effort that UNESCO recently partnered with the Studies & Economic Media Center (SEMC) and the Rory Peck Trust (RPT) to organize a five-day hostile environment training for 13 Yemeni journalists in Taiz, Yemen.

The capacity-building workshop aimed at strengthening the safety of Yemeni journalists covering the conflict in the city of Taiz, where violent clashes have erupted since the beginning of the war in Yemen. Journalists reporting on the frontline in Taiz often lack safety equipment and training to protect their security, leaving numerous journalists vulnerable to attacks and shootings.

To ensure reporters are provided with a comprehensive set of safety skills, the training was divided into four modules including media coverage in war zones, digital safety for journalists, first aid, and personal security in hostile zones. 13 Yemeni journalists, including eight male and five female journalists, took part in the workshop.

Amin Al-Sharabi, one of the journalists who participated in the course, said that the training was particularly instructive for him and his colleagues: “We gained multiple skills, including those related to digital security which is very important for us as, a lot of time, the information we gather gets hacked. This course has helped me to learn how to better protect both myself and the information I collect”. 

Another participant, Wafeeq Saleh, added that he gained a comprehensive set of skills pertaining to his safety including best practices when reporting in conflict zones, first aid techniques and behavior to adopt in dangerous situations such as arrest, kidnapping or other forms of attacks.

Four trainers were selected to lead the training: a senior journalist working for an independent media outlet and with experience in conflict zones, a doctor, a software engineer with experience in telecommunication security and a security officer.

Since the beginning of 2016, UNESCO Director General, Irina Bokova, has condemned the killings of seven journalists in Yemen including Mohammed al-Yemeni and Ahmed Al-Shaibani who were both killed while covering clashes in the city of Taiz.

UNESCO Representative for the GCC and Yemen, Anna Paolini, stressed that “protecting the safety of journalists in Yemen is essential, as communities in crisis strongly rely on the media to get crucial information that can save their lives”. “Strengthening journalists’ safety skills is therefore an urgent priority and we hope that this training is a step in the right direction towards more knowledge on safety among the media community in Yemen and better protection of journalists in the country,” she added.

Mohammed Ismail, SEMC Executive Director, indicated that the “training journalists on safety and security is a top priority for the Center”. “Journalists are in dire need of professional courses to build up their safety skills so they can safely report in conflict-hit areas”, he added.

According to Tina Carr, Director of the Rory Peck Trust, “freelancers are some of the only journalists capable of providing reliable, safe reporting from Yemen. Training those freelancers in physical and digital security can help save their lives, and enable them to continue producing safe, high-quality independent journalism from their country.”

The workshop was implemented as part of an Action Plan to Support Yemeni Media in Promoting Peace and Dialogue which was agreed upon at an experts meeting between Yemeni journalists and international NGOs in February 2016, during which strengthening the safety of journalists was identified as one of the top priorities to develop the Yemeni media landscape in the present context of war.

The SEMC is a Yemeni NGO specialized in the field of capacity-building and advocacy in the field of media development, transparency, good governance and working to support the development of professional and independent media.

The Rory Peck Trust is the only organization dedicated to the support, safety and welfare of freelance newsgatherers around the world. The Rory Peck Trust was set up in 1995 in memory of freelance cameraman Rory Peck, who was killed in Moscow in 1993.

The training was organized with the support of the Government of Finland as part of the project “Promoting Freedom of Expression in Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Syria, Tunisia and Yemen”.

More photos of the workshop can be found here

A series of interviews from Yemeni journalists and trainers working in Taiz on safety of media workers will soon be available on our Youtube channel.  

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