Tips for journalists covering violent protests
Conflict training is traditionally thought of to be of use for reporters going overseas to cover wars that are occurring far from home. But with the escalation of violence towards journalists in the Montreal student protests and the persistence of the Occupy protests, journalists working for a hometown outlet can find themselves covering potentially violent protests as well and could use some training, accordingly.
As Anne Caroline Desplanques reported for our French-language sister site ProjetJ, Columbia University’s Judith Matloff spoke to delegates at last weekend’s Canadian Association of Journalists conference and gave them tips on how to stay safe while covering conflicts at home.
Among these tips was a list of things to wear/bring with you (or not):
- A ziplock bag containing a handkerchief soaked in vinegar or lemon to cover your nose and mouth in the event of tear gas
- Milk of Magnesia to rinse your face in case of pepper spray
- Bring ear plugs in case of sound cannons
- Bottled water and cereal bars in case you are detained for any period of time
- A small first aid kit
- No contact lenses, cosmetics or moisturizers—they can burn when faced with tear gas or pepper spray.
- No ponytail or earrings that can be grabbed
- No black clothes—you don't want to blend in with the protestors, none less those displaying black bloc tactics
Other things that Matloff recommended included: journalists should position themselves around the outside of the crowd and never between police and protesters; never leaving a cameraman alone (he or she isn’t as aware of the surroundings as a camera-free journalist can be); editors should request a meeting with police to go over ground rules and rights (such as filming arrests and potential issues that may arise in terms of press cards); and that journalists should keep their lawyer’s number close to them at all times – as in written on your arm, or kept in a pocket close at hand, but never in direct view in order to avoid attention from radical protesters.