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By Rodney Pinder, Director International News Safety Institute
These are nightmare times for honest journalists.
In trouble spots around the globe, hundreds of reporters, editors and their support staff face persecution, intimidation, torture and even death simply for trying to keep their readers and listeners informed.
INSI record show more than 1,200 journalists and support staff have been killed in the line of duty in the past 10 years.
They died because someone did not like what they wrote or said, because someone did not like journalists or simply because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. And the situation has been deteriorating steadily.
In a speech to mark World Press Freedom Day in 2003 -- the year INSI was launched -- the Director-General of UNESCO, Koichiro Matsuura, said journalists always were killed during coverage of violent conflicts and political crises, but the numbers now were especially worrying.
"It appears more journalists have been subjected to harassment, physical threat, kidnapping and direct violence than in previous years," he said. He called for an end to impunity for those who committed crimes such as abduction, torture and murder to silence the truth.
"I call on government authorities everywhere to ensure that crimes against journalists do not go unpunished. And I call on citizens everywhere to make such impunity unacceptable," he declared.
It was no coincidence that 3 May 2003 also saw the launch of the International News Safety Institute (INSI), dedicated to safeguarding the lives of all journalists everywhere.
The Institute was created by an unprecedented coalition of media organisations, press freedom groups and humanitarian campaigners concerned by the mounting death toll.
The initiative came from the International Federation of Journalists, the world's biggest journalists' grouping, and the International Press Institute (IPI), the organisation for editors, media executives and prominent journalists.
They were backed by major global and regional news organisations, press freedom groups and support organisations.
The Institute's Honorary President is Chris Cramer, former Managing Director of CNN International and now a respected media advisor, who says the 21st Century world news community remains in the dark ages as far as safety is concerned. "The Institute marks a new chapter in the history of news media," he said.
After years of neglect in the face of increasing violence against media staff, we are putting security and safety on top of the news agenda. We are unique -- the only journalist support group entirely devoted to safety.
Led and managed by media professionals, INSI aims to help create a culture of safety in media in all corners of the world.
Brave reporting of war or the dark recesses of crime and corruption in peacetime is vital to the well-being of free societies everywhere. It can never be completely safe. But there are many things concerned employers and working journalists can do to manage risk and maintain high quality reporting.
INSI is here to help.
Entering hostile environments can never be completely safe for any news reporter or team. But the dangers can be reduced. Far too often, journalists still head out towards trouble, whether war or violent protest or natural disaster, without the most basic preparation.
They charge into situations about which they know little, without proper safety equipment or health awareness, when a little homework could make a huge difference to their safe return.
But relatively simple measures can achieve a great deal. The first step is awareness of the dangers. INSI provides an information network for educated risk assessment.
INSI raises money from the international community to provide basic safety training for news media staff in the developing world who lack the resources to secure their own. The training enables hundreds of journalists and support staff to look after themselves better in hostile environments.
INSI serves principally as a global safety network for journalists, whether international staff who parachute into trouble spots or locals under threat at home, providing the information and advice they and their employers need to do their jobs better in a greater degree of safety.
Put at its simplest, INSI aims to help you survive the story.
Rodney Pinder is former global editor for Reuters Television and was an international correspondent and news executive for 35 years. He covered the aftermath of the 1967 Middle East War, Northern Ireland, the Rhodesia War, the Iran-Iraq War, the Soviet incursion into Afghanistan, South Africa's war of attrition in Southern Africa, the first Gulf War and the violent transition to black majority rule in South Africa.
>> Read Rodney Pinder's speech to The Reuters Society in London on Thursday 9 December, 2011 here