Essentials for Broadcasters and Journalists in High Risk Sport Contexts

Session Summary

What is meant by a high-risk broadcasting environment needs to be contextualised. The most challenging contexts can be those where it has initially been deemed as a safe ’1’ and it escalates to a high-risk ’5’. Risk is therefore situational – broadcasters and journalists can find themselves in what is assessed as not in a high-risk country, and yet find themselves in a high-risk situation. The risk picture can change depending on the numbers of on the ground. Risks are also affected by the development in social media – with journalists increasingly susceptible to harassment.

Planning in advance is essential, and the UN has released a report on due diligence tools for corporates. The Centre for Sport and Human Rights has also specifically developed a due diligence tool for broadcasters to help identify where and when an event might become high-risk and how to mitigate issues and put safety measures in place. This tool is being elaborated upon through briefings for broadcasters that are looking to go to high-risk contexts.

Shrinking newsrooms globally mean greater reliance on local labour forces who may not always have safety training, insurance etc. In higher risk environments, these local staff are also almost always at higher risk than foreign media.

Levels of journalist experience is important. To assess and prevent human rights related risks – both the staff and others, it matters whether one is dealing with news journalists or primarily sports journalists; the latter are often be more unprepared for dealing with human rights-related risks. There are legitimate questions around how appropriate it is for a sports broadcast team to be reporting on news issues on the ground, especially given compliance regulations in a live environment.

There are different considerations for broadcasters and print journalists. Broadcasters need their signal to go out from the host country and therefore have to maintain relations in that respect, whereas there is a different level of reliance for print journalists.

A recent Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) campaign focused on the safety of photojournalists and videographers in high-risk contexts since their equipment makes them visible, particularly in crowds.  Risks posed by some governments need to be considered, such as digital surveillance by the State towards dissenting journalists.  Risks posed by the public are also becoming a factor, in light of politicians’ rhetoric negatively affecting public attitudes towards journalists. 

There are a number of risks that journalists face with a gender dimension. Hostile environment training is dominated by men from a military backgrounds who may not deal well with people outside the “norm” (e.g. women, people with a disability etc) and may be seen as an added barrier rather than an opportunity.  Fan harassment towards female journalists is an areas concern. 

Grievance mechanisms for journalists set up by sports bodies may not be sufficiently transparent. It is important to have a process where people can raise concerns or worries without feeling their competence being undermined.

Journalists want to be “free” to follow the story and report on what they feel is interesting and relevant to their audiences - they do not want to be told what they can communicate or how.  The CPJ is monitoring how different political regimes are using the cover of Covid restrictions to limit the freedoms of journalists working in their countries.

Beijing Winter Olympics and Qatar World Cup were raised by participants as challenges in the near future horizon.