Support in the conflict zone

Freelance journalists on the front lines have limited resources--but you can help

In our July/August issue, CJR published Francesca Borri’s wrenching essay about the difficulties of covering conflict as a freelancer (and a woman). Since the piece hit the Web, we’ve received hundreds of letters and comments from readers. Most were moved by the harsh economic realities of journalistic life in Syria. Many wanted to help.

The issues Borri brings up stem, of course, from the larger problem of reduced staff positions driving reporters to the front lines without the support of a publication. But there are a few good organizations that support freelance journalists covering conflict with limited resources.

Freelancers: leave other ideas and organizations in the comments and we’ll update as they come in.

The Committee to Protect Journalists

The CPJ is a line of first defense when journalists working in conflict zones are imprisoned, kidnapped, or otherwise harmed. Acting as part advocate and one part activist, the organization provides journalists with legal and medical assistance and, in worst-case scenarios, they work with the families of imprisoned and murdered reporters. They also work to raise the profile of reporters in danger by publishing lists of captured and missing journalists by country and maintaining the impunity index, which calculates unsolved journalist murders against a country’s population. Read more about their work on their very active blog and donate here:

Reporters Instructed in Saving Colleagues

For a journalist covering war the difference between life and death hangs in the minutes between being wounded and receiving triage care. Reporters on staff at publications often receive medical training for managing battle wounds. RISC fills the gap for independent journalists, providing medical training to journalists who cover conflict free of charge. They offer classes in New York, London and Beruit. You can help fund their classes here:

The Dart Center

Columbia’s Dart Center provides a roster of resources for journalists trying to cover stories of violence and conflict with sensitivity. Dart hosts regular workshops on covering violence, sexual assault and suicide, but many of their resources are available online They also sponsor a year-long mid-career fellowship for journalists who cover violence. Donate:

The Rory Peck Trust

The Rory Peck Trust funds a roster of programs for freelancers, including grants for freelancers who have been injured or persecuted in the line of duty and bursaries to support conflict training attendance. The trust also run site-specific projects to educate journalists about risk and raise the profile of conflict zones. (Here’s a recent workshop for reporters covering Syria.) They also maintain one of the best rundowns of companies offering conflict-specific insurance to freelancers. Donate here:

The Canadian Journalism Forum on Violence and Trauma

The Canadian Journalism Forum on Violence and Trauma administers a fund for writers to attend conflict training. It’s open to journalists of any nationality, as long as they can demonstrate an array of work for Canadian outlets. Donate here:

The Ochberg Society for Trauma Journalism

The Ochberg Society is a community designed to support journalists who cover trauma, violence and social injustice—many of whom are alumni of the Dart Center’s fellowship. The Society organizes peer gatherings, offers support to journalists covering conflict, and publishes a magazine of exemplary trauma journalism, Acts of Witness. Perhaps most importantly, the Society presents the Mimi Award, a prize recognizing an editor who nurtures and supports journalists covering these wrenching, and often isolating, stories. (It’s one of the few awards in journalism recognizing editors.) Society members maintain a thoughtful blog discussing the challenges of coverage and highlighting exceptional work; here’s a recent entry discussing Francesca Borri’s piece.

Donate here:

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Alexis Sobel Fitts is a senior writer at CJR. Follow her on Twitter at @fittsofalexis. Tags: , , , , ,