Journalists at Risk
This section of the AIB website provides information on issues affecting the ability of journalists to carry out their jobs in locations around the world.
Please contact us if you have questions or if you want to report incidents – use the ‘General enquiries’ address half way down the contacts page.
Tips for journalists and news crews operating in potentially dangerous areas
If accreditation is required, always use a locally-acquired pay-as-you-go mobile phone.
Use a specific e-mail account – such as a special Gmail or Hotmail account – with a separate password to those used for accessing your corporate network or for personal access to websites such as PayPal, Ebay and Amazon.
Ensure that no sensitive data – such as details of contacts – are held on devices that are not password protected. If you do hold such data electronically, ensure that it is protected behind secondary password systems.
Ensure that access to your corporate network is not left ‘open’ on devices that may be stolen or confiscated.
Journalists trying to cover stories in Bahrain and Kyrgyzstan have been barred from entering the countries in December; sentenced for filming in Myanmar in November
A Tel Aviv-based US journalist working for Al Jazeera has been accused of trying to enter Bahrain illegally, the country’s Ministry of Information Affairs said in the first week of December. The journalist, a correspondent for Al Jazeera in Iraq and Israel, arrived in Bahrain without, it is claimed, having applied for a media visa and without possessing an invitation from the organisers of the event he was reportedly planning to cover, the Ministry said.
The Kyrgyzstan government used similar tactics against AFP journalist Chris Rickleton. He reportedly has been barred from the country for “breaking the visa regime”. Rickleton has lived in the Kyrgyz capital Bishkek with his wife and daughter, who have Kyrgyz citizenship, since 2010. Rickleton has appealed to President Jeenbekov to lift the ban on his entering the country.
In Myanmar, two journalists working for TRT WORLD have been jailed for two months for allegedly contravening the country’s Aircraft Act. Singaporean Lau Hon Meng (left in picture) and Malaysian Mok Choy Lin (right of picture), as well as their local interpreter Aung Naing Soe and driver Hla Tin, were detained on October 27 while filming a programme for TRT WORLD. They were accused of trying to use a drone to record video images of the Hluttaw, or House of Representatives building, in the Myanmar capital allegedly without permission.
According to TRT WORLD, Lau and Mok had entered Myanmar on journalist visas on October 21. They were filming a documentary and had “shot in various locations with conventional cameras as well as with a drone, up until October 27”.
“The Myanmar Information Ministry was previously informed about all filming activities and the filming schedule,” TRT World said.
“According to information TRT World has gathered from local journalists who are in touch with Myanmar security officials and our team, our crew wanted to film the Parliament building in the capital with a drone after conducting an interview with a member of Parliament. They were detained by security officials before flying the drone.”
Challenges in Republic of Congo
Two Italian journalists have been expelled from the Republic of Congo, the government confirmed on 23 March. It accused the journalists of visiting the country to investigate and make a documentary without permission. They are alleged to have entered the country using a tourist visa.
According to Reporters Sans Frontieres, Luca Chianca and Paolo Palermo who work for Reports, an investigative programme broadcast by the Italian TV channel RAI 3, were arrested by plainclothes police in Pointe-Noire, the country’s second largest city, on 15 March and were held arbitrarily for three days and two nights.
The Directorate for Territorial Surveillance (DST) detained them on the grounds that they did not have press visas.They were held in a two-meter-square room furnished with nothing more than a chair, and had no means of communicating with the outside world.
The Republic of Congo has a population of 4,900,000. GDP/capita is US$1,851. Freedom House rates Press Freedom in the Republic of Congo – whose capital is Brazzaville – as Partly Free.
Digital privacy at the US border – and beyond
Increasingly frequent and invasive searches at the US border have raised questions for those who want to protect the private data on their computers, phones and other digital devices. A new guide released in March by the US-based Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) gives travellers the facts they need in order to prepare for border crossings while protecting their digital information.
Digital Privacy at the US Border helps everyone carry out a risk assessment, evaluating personal factors like immigration status, travel history and the sensitivity of the data they are carrying.
EFF points out that, depending on which devices go with people undertaking a trip, gadgets can include information such as work-related client files, a traveller’s political leanings – and those of their friends – and even a tax return. Assessing an individual’s risk factors helps them choose a path to proactively protect themself, which might mean leaving some devices at home, moving some information off devices and into the cloud, and using encryption. EFF’s guide also explains why some protections, like fingerprint locking of a phone, are less secure than other methods.
The Association for International Broadcasting recommends this guide which, while designed to ensure a safe and stress-free crossing into the United States, also provide useful tips for journalists, news crews and other media workers visiting countries that might be deemed “less than friendly”.
Covering China remains challenging
The challenges for journalists covering news in China were demonstrated in the run-up to the National People’s Congress in March 2017 were thrown into sharp focus when a BBC crew was attacked in Hunan Province.
BBC correspondent John Sudworth and his crew planned to interview a villager who claims that her father was killed during a land dispute with the government. As Sudworth reported: “As soon as we arrived in Yang Linghua’s village it was clear they were expecting us. The road to her house was blocked by a large group of people and, within a few minutes, they’d assaulted us and smashed all of our cameras.”
After the attack, Sudworth says that police arrived along with two officials from the local foreign affairs office. The BBC team was forced to delete some of the video footage they had shot as well as signing a “confession” for “behaviour causing a bad impact” and for trying to conduct an “illegal interview”.
As Sudworth later said, the attack on his team told far more about life for ordinary people in China than the planned interview would have revealed.
The Foreign Correspondents Club of China has condemned the harassment, saying: “The FCCC calls on the Chinese government and police to take steps to prevent foreign reporters who are legally allowed to work in China from being subjected to such violence and intimidation.”
The FCCC went on: “this violent effort to deter news coverage is a gross violation of Chinese government rules governing foreign correspondents, which expressly permit them to interview anybody who consents to be interviewed.”
Iraq proves dangerous for journalists
A freelance video journalist covering the battle against the Islamic State (IS) militant group in Mosul, Iraq for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) was critically injured in a mortar attack October 20.
Rasool Mahmood (pictured), who was covering the military campaign against IS in Iraq for RFE/RL’s service to Iran, Radio Farda, was reporting from the front lines of the push to retake the country’s second largest city from IS militants when he was wounded by a mortar in a counter attack by IS fighters against Kurdish Peshmerga and Iraqi forces.
Mahmood was traveling with Peshmerga soldiers about 25 kilometers from the center of Mosul when the attack happened. He sustained broken bones and the likely loss of one eye. He is currently being treated at a hospital in Erbil.
“We are devastated by the news that our colleague is wounded,” said RFE/RL President Thomas Kent. “He is a brave and dedicated reporter and we are doing everything possible to support his family and get him the medical attention he needs.”
BBC team interrogated and deported from North Korea
In May 2016, while covering the meeting of the 7th Congress of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) in Pyongyang, BBC correspondent Rupert Wingfield-Hayes and his crew were detained, interrogated and subsequently deported from North Korea.
In a statement, the BBC said: “We are very disappointed that our reporter Rupert Wingfield-Hayes and his team have been deported from North Korea after the government took offence at material he had filed.
“Four BBC staff, who were invited to cover the Workers Party Congress, remain in North Korea and we expect them to be allowed to continue their reporting. “
After his release and return to Beijing, Wingfield-Hayes described his experience on the BBC website.
Personal details of 4000 journalists leaked
Philippines President declares open season on journalists
Philippines President-elect Rodrigo Duterte (right) is reported to have said that many journalists who have been killed in the country had “done something” to warrant being killed. AFP reported that on Tuesday 31 May, Duterte said “Just because you’re a journalist you are not exempted from assassination if you’re a son of a bitch”.
Duterte is due to be sworn in as President at the end of June and it appears that he will be continuing to build on his reputation as a politician who courts controversy. Comments on a number of issues have led Human Rights Watch to calling him the “Death Squad Mayor”.
According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, 75 journalists have been killed in the Philippines since 1992.
Further reports suggest that Duterte said journalists who defamed others should not automatically be protected from violent attacks.
The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines has condemned Duterte’s “crass pronouncement”, saying that it sullies the names and memories of all 176 journalists who have been murdered in the country since 1986.
The AIB recommends that all journalists and news crews operating in the Philippines take extra precautions to protect themselves and be aware of possible increased threat to their work, particularly those undertaking investigative work.