Safety Handbook for Journalists

1. Pandemic Media Management Platform

The World Health Organization advises organisations to have a pandemic management system The media organisations that have  international offices in the affected areas and/or are reporting on the outbreak itself could increase the risk of exposure to the virus without the correct preventative measures.

The Covid-19 death rate is 1 in 100, which is similar to the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic. This pandemic caused 17 million deaths and even spread to remote locations, such as the Pacific Highlands

Strategic Priorities:

  • Optimise provision and reduce vulnerability
  • Prioritise protection of staff and business continuity
  • Strengthen response to major incident
  • Early warning system and forecasting model
  • Advice and collaborate with international medical epidemic organisations
  • Support programs for infected staff
  • Editorial and manpower emergency plans

An effective pandemic plan addresses topics such as:

  • Epidemic forecasting models
  • Formation of crisis management / disease management team
  • Daily risk assessment
  • Estimation of potential risk to organisation
  • Estimates of pandemic impact on organisation
  • Decision making process at management level
  • Workplace safety precautions and staff Training
  • Visualise potential damage to organisation
  • Employee travel restrictions and no-go areas
  • Provisions for stranded travellers unable to return home.
  • Mandatory medical check-ups, and surveillance
  • Mandatory reporting of exposure, such as employees reporting to employers.
  • Employers report to their regional public health authorities.
  • Employee quarantine or isolation.
  • Control at source.
  • Distance and Separation methods 2 Metre Rule.
  • Removal and waste management of infected items and disposal of protective equipment, masks, sanitizers and surface cleaners.
  • Newsroom using skeleton staff or even shutdowns.

Have a procedure in place to assist and support you should you fall ill while on task, taking into account the possibility of self-isolation and/or being quarantined/ or locked down for an extended period of time, especially if operating in a location that has an upsurge in cases. Think about staff having associated psychological trauma through newsgathering in such environments and preventative and supportive measures in such cases.

Means of exposure to virus

  • Travel
  • Contact with local population
  • Interviewing local population
  • Geographical location
  • Office environment
  • Equipment
  • Exposure to potential risk

Symptoms of Covid – 19

  • High Fever/ Temperature hot to touch chest and back – Temp above 37.5
  • Persistent cough 3 or more coughing episodes in 24 hours
  • Breathing Difficulties
  • Loss of sense of smell and taste
  • Chronic Kidney and liver diseases
  • Some reporting of anosmia

Be aware of viral load if the person is very sick, they have more viral overload so they can infect person more vigorously

If you show any of these symptoms immediately self-isolate for fourteen days if you feel significantly unwell during this period inform health ministry, or local medical facility and follow protocol

Basic Covid – 19 protection rules

  • Wash your Hands regularly especially when touching surfaces.
  • Use tissue for coughs and if you don’t have then use your sleeve.
  • Avoid touching your hands or face.
  • Wear gloves or surgical gloves outside the home.
  • Dispose of your used tissues in a sealed bag.
  • Avoid contact with unwell persons.
  • Use the two-metre social distancing rule.

Preventative Methods for office staff

  • The office should be working on skeleton or priority staff
  • Distance and separation methods should be implemented
  • Flexi or home working procedures should be implemented for the news organisation.
  • Part-time workers should cover affected full-time staff.
  • Daily briefing for staff on current situation and operating procedures.
  • Journalists with underlying health problems should not be in direct contact with affected persons and should not be utilised under the pandemic restrictions.
  • Decontaminate all work surfaces regularly after use.
  • Use disposable gloves when working.
  • All departments should have disposable bin bags for decontaminated items.
  • No communal eating or drinking should be allowed. Staff should only use disposable cups or their own personal items.
  • Hand sanitizers, bottled soap, and disposable tissue should be available at every workstation.
  • Do not share paperwork and do everything electronically.
  • All disposable bags should be collected on a regular basis and disposed of correctly, following company guidelines.
  • All computers and equipment to be decontaminated before the next person uses it.
  • Decontaminate before leaving the building and when you come back.
  • A designated area has to be identified for incoming teams to decontaminate their equipment, cameras etc., before equipment is shelved or stored.
  • When you leave the building to go home, leave your shoes outside, wash hands then immediately wash the clothing you used that day.

Remember a clean surface, work space area and equipment is your best friend.

Pre-News Gathering Procedure

Selection of staff – consider their age, any underlying illnesses and their general fitness and ability. 

What are underlying medical conditions?

Personnel with underlying medical conditions are more likely to experience more aggressive symptoms and develop complications from Covid-19.

An underlying condition is a chronic or long-term Illness that weakens the immune system, including but not limited to:

  • Heart Disease
  • Respiratory disease
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Cancer
  • Sickle cell disease
  • Asthma

Avoidance procedure for field deployments

  • Check your geographical medical intelligence before you deploy!
  • Do your Threat Model for daily activity.
  • You have prepared and assessed the risk associated with the deployment.
  • You have the correct protection equipment.
  • You are familiar with decontamination procedures.
  • Always maintain a two-metre rule.
  • If somebody is showing symptoms, move directly away from that person to a safe distance
  • Do not shake hands or have any physical contact with anyone, use another gesture like thumbs up or a wave.
  • Only eat and drink outside infected areas, and only use personal items.
  • Carry a small freezer bag with soap in to wash your hands regularly.
  • Cover your equipment when not in use with plastic bags that you can dispose of.
  • Always wear disposable gloves in the field.
  • Try and wear clothing that you do not have to pull overhead to come into contact with your face, so ideally swap your t-shirts for button shirts.
  • If you wear glasses make sure you decontaminate them regularly.
  • Make sure you plan for time periods to decontaminate after outdoor exposure.
  • Wear full personal protective clothing and equipment (PPE) when working in medical facilities.
  • Always carry spare clothing in a sealed freezer bag.
  • Follow public restrictions on large populated areas and events.
  • Thoroughly clean your vehicle before and after tasks.
  • Use disposable car seat cover and then dispose after use.

Decontamination Drills

There are three levels of decontamination: cleaning, disinfection and disposal

A decontamination plan should be developed (as part of the Site Safety Plan) and set up before any personnel or equipment may enter areas where the potential for exposure to Covid-19 exists. The decontamination plan should:

  • Determine the decontamination equipment needed.
  • Determine appropriate decontamination methods.
  • Establish procedures to prevent contamination of clean areas.
  • Establish methods and procedures to minimise worker contact with contaminants during removal of PPE.
  • Establish methods for disposing of clothing and equipment that are not completely decontaminated.

Decontamination of equipment:

  • Soap and water (Dettol soap)
  • Anti-bacterial gel with greater than 60 % ethanol
  • Meliseptol wipes (anti – bacterial)


Make sure on return from the field all equipment is decontaminated before storing. PPE is all about wearing layers of protection between you and the virus

Putting on equipment:

  • Ensure you have the correct size.
  • Inspect for damage.
  • Tuck trousers into socks before putting on the suit.
  • Put on trousers making sure it covers footwear and then place protective footwear covers on.
  • Zip the suit to your chest.
  • Fit the mask and eyewear.
  • Put on the hood.
  • Zip up the suit to the mask.
  • Close the front flap.
  • Wash or sanitise your hands and then put on the gloves.

Taking off equipment:

  • Open the flaps and unzip the suit.
  • Roll of the hood by turning it backwards so that the suit is rolled inside out.
  • Roll down the sleeves and take off the gloves in the sleeve.
  • Roll down the suit to your footwear, making sure you roll it inside out.
  • Remove the protective footwear and dispose them directly into a sealable plastic bag.
  • Remove the eyewear and the mask.
  • Make sure then you personally decontaminate by washing your hands and yourself.

Face masks:

  • An N95 mask is recommended by most medical bodies. 
  • Make sure that the mask fits correctly over the nose, mouth and bridge of the nose. It is recommended to be clean shaven for a better seal.
  • Only use the mask string and avoid touching the main mask itself.
  • Never reuse masks used in contaminated areas neither give the mask to someone else to use.
  • After use, dispose of the mask in a sealable bag.

Safety and security

  • People can become violent in these situations.
  • Beware if you’re reporting in foreign countries as you have to respect cultural sensitivities. 
  • You may come across protests or public disorder so stick to your public disorder planning and contingency.
  • Make sure you still accurately fill in your risk assessments for high risk news gatherings, such as taking your ballistic protective equipment on high-risk assignments. Adapt to the situation by ensuring you decontaminate this equipment as well.
  • Make sure you still carry your personal first aid kits and have means of stopping bleeding.
  • Still adhere to digital safety protocol there are many global scams during crises such as pandemics.


  • If you have experienced any risky situations, write a post–deployment report for your managers.
  • If you feel unwell, check the government advice and self-isolate immediately.
  • Share best practices and advice with your colleagues.
  • If you are deployed to a high-risk area, monitor the medical intelligence and make your own  decision as to whether you should be there.
  • Check on travel restrictions and the status of operations at airports since getting evacuated and travelling in general could be difficult.

You will need to practise these set protocols before deployments to ensure you are newsgathering in a safe manner. Always remember protocol, common sense and common knowledge is always the best solution whilst working in these environments.