Safety Handbook for Journalists

1. Threat Model

Threat Model: contains proactive methods of assessing risk and threats before assignments. 

A Threat Model can also be carried out on the ground on a daily or even hourly basis. The model includes countermeasures to be carried out on the ground.

It is a method of listing, with the aim of controlling, potential risks associated with newsgathering. It is a prerequisite to the risk assessment and plan. The intention is that it is used in the field as a briefing process, and to be used every time you deploy – even in a local domestic environment.

The Threat Model enables one to:

  • Identify risk before or during deployment;
  • Used as part of the briefing process;
  • Enables you to think strategically every time you deploy;
  • Highlights critical daily threats;
  • Characterises threat in the environment you are working;
  • Establishes the location of news team on the ground;
  • Includes an equipment checklist, exit strategy, and on the ground countermeasures
  • Determines whether the journalist should be there in the first place

Threat Model Process for covering demonstrations (Example)

Risk Assessment Phase

Step 1: Risk analysis

What should be considered in a threat model whilst covering demonstrations:

  • Location / Geography
  • Route to location
  • Groups /Parties involved
  • Leaders of parties involved
  • Do they behave aggressively to the press?
  • Position of the protestors
  • Position of the security forces
  • Tactics used
  • Where do you position yourself?
  • What if we get separated?
  • Rendezvous (RV) – Procedure and location
  • Escape routes
  • Undercover security forces
  • What parties or persons am I going to get involved with?
  • Timings
  • Should I be here in the first place?

Step 2: Define the risks associated to your assignment (see the example in table below):

  • Crowd Movement
  • Security forces
  • Tear Gas
  • Water Cannon
  • Ballistic threat
  • Snipers
  • Aggressive demonstrators

Step 3: Evaluate your risks 

The below hypothetical analysis indicates how the previously defined risks affect individuals, organisations and actors.

Step 4: Elaborate the countermeasures you can take and define the procedure 

Below is a table outlining specific countermeasures for each risk and introduces procedures and practices to mitigate the risks:

(End of Example)

Risk Forensics

Forensic risk assessment: attempts to predict the probability that an individual or a group  would carry out a violent or anti-social attack based on previous past attacks. 

As an example, in a crime investigation a detective would think about the individuals and groups that could pose as threats if the crime were to be exposed. Similarly, the story or statements your organisation releases could impact your security.

Benefits of Risk Forensics

  • Facilitates the implementation of a more accurate risk reduction strategy for those that require it.
  • Identifies task-specific risks coming from an individual or group.
  • Helps organisations or individuals to identify if they have the necessary risk management systems and capabilities before commencing risk associated tasks.
  • Allows organisations or investigations to determine whether they need to seek specific professional consultation.