More than 100 journalists reported being targeted while covering the widespread protests against racial injustice and police brutality in the United States. It’s more important now than ever for journalists to be equipped with the right resources to report safely on the ground.
Here are some critical tips for when you enter the field.
The essentials to bring with you:
- A gas mask, if you have one. Acceptable alternatives are a carbon mask or a scarf.
- Safety goggles that are sealed, anti-fog, and impact-resistant. Swimming goggles aren’t the answer.
- A skateboard or bike helmet
- A bottle of water
- Running shoes
- Here is a list with links to purchase equipment recommended above.
What to do:
Before you go:
- Leave all extra equipment at home. You want to travel light so you can move freely and quickly.
- Bring a first aid kit or something to patch-up any small wounds.
- Have something to identify you as press, either a vest or your press card.
- Wear glasses and have something to tie them to your face.
- Wear your hair up and don’t wear makeup — especially eye makeup: Eye makeup can act as an irritant if there’s tear gas.
Before you enter the protest:
- Work with a colleague — especially at night! Whether it be a producer or a friend, this will heighten situational awareness.
- Have two meeting points. One nearby in case of separation and a second point in a safe and secure location:
- If you are alone, assign yourself a point of safety in advance that’s removed from the action.
- If you’re traveling by car, leave the car far from the protests. It needs to be in an accessible location but relatively far away so you are not stuck in the heat of the protest unable to move.
- Turn off facial recognition pass code protection on your phone.
While you’re covering the story:
- A rule of thumb: stay to the side or edge of the protest. If you are in the middle, it’s easy to get trapped.
- Keep a safe distance between you and the action.
- Photojournalists: We know you need to get close to get the action., Head in to cover, and then head out promptly when you aren’t actively taking photos.
- NEVER get in between police and people rioting — you will be directly in the crossfire.
- Practice 10:2 vision: Keep a solid distance from police officers. The rule is if you can see them, they can see you as well.
If you are gassed or fired at:
- Exit the situation immediately and flee.
For tear gas:
- Oppose the direction of the wind.
- Water removes tear gas:
- Pour water from the inner corner of the eye to the outer corner of the eye
- Try not to touch your face and do not wash your clothes immediately when you get to safety.
For rubber bullets:
- Disinfect yourself if an outward injury occurs, and put a sterile bandage on top.
If you are stopped:
- Immediately identify yourself as the press.
- Know your rights — here is a resource to learn more.
- Refrain from getting into a shouting or shoving match with law enforcement.
- Carry 50 or 100 dollars in cash with you for bail.
- If you are able to, pass-off notes and film to a colleague — here is a resource in case your phone or materials are confiscated.
- If you can, have someone film your interaction, especially if you are a journalist of color.
- RCPF has a 24/7 hotline for journalists — write this information down: 800–336–email@example.com
- Report your interaction — submit your case to this tracker.
If you need more resources:
- For students covering the protests.
- Education on becoming anti-racist and approaching subjects equitably.
- For your mental health after any potentially traumatic situations.