Many journalists flew to Sichuan province to cover the aftermath of the earthquake on May 12. They sent the people of Hong Kong as well as the world first-hand information from there and fulfilled the public’s right to know. Your job well done has won praise from the general public.
However, one must be reminded that journalists’ safety has to be taken care of. The HKJA learned that more journalists will be deployed to the scene to take their turn at covering the news. We hope that managements will consider the following when assigning staff:
1) It is dangerous to cover the aftermath of an earthquake, please respect the decision made by those in the frontline according to their own situation. No discrimination or penalty should be imposed on those who refuse to take an assignment.
2) Buy extra insurance for the frontline reporters if the situation allows.
3) There are aftershocks in Sichuan, when assigning staff, management should consider: whether it is necessary to ask the frontline staff to get to the scene earlier than the People’s Liberation Army; assign at least two staff members to go together; keep close contact with frontline staff and know their whereabouts; ask them to stay in safe place when a aftershock warning is declared.
4) Please prepare safety packs for frontline journalists. It may include, but not be restricted to, the following: protecting helmet, bottled water, purification pills, vitamin C, plastic gloves, alcohol pads, surgical masks, warm clothes, raincoat, etc. Individual journalists have to consider adding personal necessities to the list according to one’s own need.
It is advisable for frontline journalists that are assigned to Sichuan to visit the following hyperlink for dos & don’ts in covering earthquakes, which was written by the International News Safety Institute last year following an earthquake in Peru. (http://www.newssafety.com/stories/insi/safetytipsperu.pdf).
It is natural for those who witness disaster to suffer from trauma. We have, therefore, contacted the division of Clinical Psychology of the Hong Kong Psychological Society and the Hong Kong Social Workers’ General Union to help those journalists covering the news there. They have kindly agreed to offer counseling for individuals or groups. Interested colleagues please contact Mak Yin-ting, General Secretary of the HKJA, at 2591-0692 or 9025-8965 for details.
We are also grateful that the Hong Kong Association of Pharmaceutical Industry will donate hundreds medical kits, according to the advice of the Department of Health, for journalists covering the earthquake-affected area. Media organisations and individual journalists who wish to have the kit, please contact the HKJA office at 2591-0081.