Dr Festus Kofi Aubyn, a Research Fellow at the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre (KAIPTC) has urged media houses to develop safety guidelines and measures for their journalists.
He said such a safety guidelines would help protect journalists and guide them on how to keep safe in their line of duty.
He also appealed to media owners and media houses to ensure regular safety training programmes for their journalists and other media workers, including online safety; saying that, “Install robust security systems – closed circuit television (CCTV) cameras for surveillance”.
Dr Aubyn made the appeal in a presentation at the maiden Ghana Journalists Association (GJA) Security Seminar in Accra.
The seminar on safety and security of journalists, dubbed JournalismIsNotACrime, was organised by the GJA in collaboration with the National Peace Council.
It was to equip journalists with critical safety and security information in the discharge of their duties.
Speaking on the topic “Surviving the Hazards: How to Stay Safe and Still Do Your Job”, Dr Aubyn noted that the safety procedures for journalists might differ, depending on the context (conflict and non-conflict context) and issues being covered.
He said journalists reporting on corruption and organized crime, for example, were increasingly targeted by organised crime groups and parallel powers.
Dr Aubin said there was the need for multifaceted approach including all stakeholders to ensure the promotion and protection of journalists’ safety.
He said Ghana had always been named among countries with good press freedom records in the world; declaring that, however, the country had in the past decades recorded several cases of violations against journalists and media workers.
He noted that the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) had for instances recorded over 140 incidents of violations since the past decade.
Dr Aubyn said the perpetrators of such violence against journalists were mainly the security agencies, political party supporters, organised/pressure groups and state officials.
With regards to the nature of hazards inflicted on journalists, Dr Aubyn mentioned death (including murder), physical attacks, abductions, harassment, intimidation, illegal arrest, arbitrary detention and destruction of equipment/properties.
He encouraged journalists to request for police protection whenever necessary.
He called for the setting up of emergency response mechanisms for embattled journalists.
On personal safety, Dr Aubyn said anticipating threats, risks, and vulnerabilities were fundamental to personal security.
He urged journalists to undertake risk assessment before embarking on any assignments and to remain vigilant and alert of their surroundings.
He advised them to report suspicious activities to the police and to be unpredictable – change daily routes.
He also urged them to develop accessible, real-time emergency response mechanisms.
Dr Aubyn said journalists must maintain the ethics of the profession; since unprofessional conducts could be a risk.
“The state has the primary responsibility to ensure the safety and security of all citizens, including journalists,” he said.
“However, Journalists and their respective media organisations have a role to play when it comes to their safety and security – establish general safety provisions for journalists.”