By Funmi Falobi
Journalists perform the important roles of informing, educating and entertaining the public. They are imperative in the development of any society as they serve as the watchdog of the society and voice of the people.
However, they face a lot of challenges in carrying out their works. They are threatened, harassed and authorities also use laws to limit their performance. When undergoing risky assignments, they also become endangered species especially in conflict situations and investigative reporting.
As part of efforts to equip Nigerian journalists with necessary training that would improve their safety, the International Press Centre, IPC, with the support of the International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX) organised a training workshop to enlighten journalists on the issue of digital security and trauma management.
The online training entitled, “Safety, Security and Management of Trauma in Coverage of Dangerous Assignments” is one of the components of a project on ‘Enhanced Safety Awareness for Nigeria Journalists.’
In his address, Executive Director, IPC, Lanre Arogundade declared that the workshop was expected to enhance the capacity of journalists to manage difficult safety challenges while carrying out their work. Stressing that, participating journalists are expected to be able to practice with increased confidence and manage dangerous situations effectively.
“Increased reporting risks especially as occasioned by Covid-19 require that journalists have enhanced safety knowledge and consciousness. Indeed, the importance of journalists’ safety while reporting cannot be over emphasised, since journalists have to face the challenge of publicising information in a new and changing, but repressive environment, despite being poorly equipped and in some cases having limited knowledge and skills.
“When the media is constantly attacked and intimidated, the entire society suffers information-scarcity. Governments, business, civil society and individuals all lose when the media cannot do its job of bringing reliable information to the public.
Safety also borders on protecting the state of mental health of journalists, as they are usually on the frontlines of difficult and overwhelming incidents, such as crime scenes, road accidents, natural disasters and wars.
“Journalists also undertake the dangerous assignment of investigating corruption and other criminal activities, all of which could make them susceptible to threats, attacks, anxiety, stress and burnout,” he said.
Taking the participants through the use of technological devices, Gillo Cutrupi, IFEX Consultant on Digital Security, encouraged journalists to always use licensed apps in order to safeguard their information.
Speaking on the topic, “Safety Reporting and the Challenges Online and Offline,” Cutrupi enjoined journalists to keep their mobile devices updated.
“When you are conversing, you have to be security conscious. Don’t release any important images, information that might go on social networks. Be mindful, don’t click on links you’re not sure of, it might lead you to links that are not secured,’ he said.
The information security expert therefore advised journalists to always do a checklist of what they would need whenever they are going on any assignment.
Similarly, Fisayo Soyombo, an award winning investigative journalist cautioned the participants to be weary of who they trust while carrying out dangerous assignment.
Speaking on the topic, “Dangerous Assignments: Lessons on Safety,” he enjoined journalists to always have a plan when covering dangerous assignments.
” Use the social media but with discretion. Have a risk exit plan and don’t under estimate the risk of being found out,” he said.
Soyombo therefore admonished journalists to seek professional advice before embarking on any dangerous assignments.
On her part, Dr. Uzo Israel, Lecturer/Consultant, Clinical Psychologist, University of Lagos urged journalists to always have positive perception. According to her, “how you interpret stress would determine whether it is negative or positive.”
Speaking on the topic, “Managing Stress, Trauma” Israel maintained that the Covid-19 pandemic affected our social and financial life and people have different perceptions about the covid-19 vaccine, while negative attitude will affect one’s health.
While encouraging journalists to embrace relaxation exercises due to the nature of their work, she said, “research shows relaxation exercises are effective in stress management. If we practice relaxation therapy very well, we are on our way to manage stress.
“It has been found that stress causes ulcer than anything else. Stress causes premature aging. If you reduce your stress, your ulcer will reduce.
“You can adapt to relaxation exercises no matter your condition. By all means, find time to relax and meditate,” she added.