Mobile networks in even the most benign democracies are required by law to build monitoring systems into their infrastructure. The powers that be can then use this data in a number of ways, ranging from disclosure, where historical records are released under a government request, to real time interception of location, numbers called and when you called them.
The risk of being tracked through your mobile phone usage is clearly heightened in less stable states. There are a number of practical solutions which can be used to minimise your footprint on a network.
1. Don’t turn on a phone until you are away from an airport or point of entry. Border control is where your phone and number can be most easily attributed to you and flagged for interception. Some border posts may also use an IMSI-Catcher which forces all mobile phones passing through to authenticate to a false network, which then attaches the mobile number in use to your identity.
Last night’s talk looked at the future of fixers in foreign reporting and at the relationships that develop when the ‘mad circus of the international press’ arrives to cover a news story, desperately needing to hide their ignorance of the country, culture and language.
The discussion was chaired by Charles Glass, broadcaster, journalist and writer, who was joined by Ilene Prusher, an independent journalist based in Jerusalem and author of the recently published book Baghdad Fixer; and Patrick Cockburn, senior Middle East correspondent since 1979 for the Financial Times and, presently, The Independent.
Lending some sense of reality to the discussion was Suliman Ali Zway, a Libya-based freelance journalist who switched from a career in construction to working as a fixer during the Libyan revolution. What started as translation work soon developed into ‘explaining the country, the culture and what led to such a revolution.’
Last night’s talk was a whistle stop tour through the history of the Frontline News Television agency, with its two surviving founding members, Vaughan Smith and Peter Jouvenal, in conversation with long-time cohort, BBC World Affairs Editor John Simpson.
From FNTV’s origins over a Christmas dinner amid the chaos of the Romanian revolution in December 1989, to its eventual suspension in 2003, this outfit for freelance video reporters has spanned from the journalistic sublime to the ridiculous. The madcap ideas of flying into warzones by microlight or launching an extreme tourism business were balanced by such successes as getting the first images of Afghans fighting the Russians with Stinger missiles, proving that the Americans were supplying the mujahideen with modern equipment.
The Frontline Club’s News Safety Initiative was launched on 8 May 2012 with a meeting of news industry decision-makers, leading practitioners and freelances, at the Frontline Club. The meeting was a great success and it was clear that everyone wanted us to take the best ideas forward.
Editors, producers, practitioners and others involved in the news industry will gather at the Frontline Club in early May to discuss issues of safety.
Frontline Club founder and former member of Frontline TV, Vaughan Smith, says the aim of the meeting – to be held on Tuesday 8 May – is to get different parts of the industry to come together and talk about safety in the field.
Foreign reporting is changing. With news outlets’ budgets tightening, and competition, pressure and risks on the rise, foreign journalists working in conflict countries are abandoning traditional methods of reporting in favour of using cheap, local hires to get the story:
“It used to be that you were a local journalist, and treated kind of like the Red Cross. That has completely changed,” said Callum Macrae, producer and director of Channel 4’s ‘Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields’.
I am convinced that there is an exciting opportunity, post embed-free Libya, for a practitioner-led initiative to move the industry forward on news safety.
So in April this year the Frontline Club is hosting workshops, bringing news management, leading practitioners and experienced freelances together to discuss the issues.
I don’t think better news safety needs to increase costs, quite the reverse. By working together we can save funds by more clearly defining duty of care responsibilities and better aligning safe practice with efficient acquisition.
No one who attended last night’s discussion at the Frontline Club on the safety of journalists was under any illusion that the issue was not an important one, but few there could have anticipated that it would be so topical.
News of the death of Sunday Times journalist Marie Colvin, a regular at the Frontline Club, and French photographer Remi Ochlik in a shelling in Homs has shocked and saddened the journalist community. Read more →
A documentary on journalist casualties during the Iraq war came under fire last night as members of the audience questioned the director’s stance on the US military.
Greek journalist Nikos Megrelis’ 2011 film, ‘Shooting vs. Shooting’, centres around the killing of Western journalists by American soldiers in Iraq and suggests that US forces often deliberately targeted the press. Read more →
On the eve of the fall of Sirte, the BBC’s World News Editor has revealed that the Foreign Office “strongly recommended” to broadcasters that they pull their journalists out of Libya prior to the start of NATO’s bombing campaign.
Speaking at yesterday evening’s Frontline Club event on the pressures of reporting conflict, Jon Williams said officials at the Foreign Office were concerned that they could not guarantee the safety of journalists on the ground. Read more →
In a year where 100 journalists have been killed so far while trying to tell the story, and as the media’s coverage of events rocking the Middle East have been brought into sharp relief, it seems high time to examine the delicate relationship between ensuring the safety of journalists and being able to break the story first. Read more →
Veteran war correspondent Martin Bell was at the Frontline Club last night to look back on his long career as a journalist and share some pearls of wisdom for aspiring foreign correspondents.
Bell, who later went on to become MP for Tatton, a UNICEF ambassador and prolific writer, was talking to former BBC executive Vin Ray for a Reflections event in association with the BBC College of Journalism about a 35-year career that took him to 102 countries. Read more →
The BBC World Service is “highly concerned” about the safety of their correspondent in Tajikistan, Urunboy Usmonov, who has been detained in the country for a week without regular access to his lawyer.
A statement was made by the BBC on June 16 condemning the detention and demanding the immediate release of Usmonov. But despite similar statements from the British and American Embassies, the Tajik authorities have not responded.
An article published by Tajik press agency Press.tj on June 18 claimed Usmonov was a member of Hizbut-Tahir, a banned Islamic political organisation whose goal is for all Muslim countries to unify as an Islamic state.
The BBC say the accusation represents a breach of legal practice and a serious violation of presumption of innocence.
A statement, released today by the World Service, said: “We strongly reiterate that these allegations are unfounded and the BBC sees them as a serious threat to professional journalism and to freedom of expression in Tajikistan.
“Urunboy Usmonov as a BBC journalist is expected to cover all sides of any story and in the course of his work it is only natural that he would meet and interview people representing all shades of opinion.”
Since he was detained Usmonov has been denied access to his family, who have expressed deep concerns about his health and possible maltreatment in the detention centre. He suffers from a serious heart condition and has requested further medical attention.
“Our thoughts are with Urunboy and his family,” said the BBC. “We appeal to everyone with influence over this situation to redouble their efforts to secure [his] immediate release.”
Umar Cheema, a prominent political reporter for Pakistan’s, The News, who spoke to the CPJ about his abduction, torture and sexual assault in 2010, said the decision “to speak up” made him “stronger and made my enemies more cowardly”.
Women don’t report sexual attacks most of the time because family honor is very important. If something like that gets reported, the girl herself will be blamed by the family and everyone around her.
Accounts given by women based in the United States cited work culture for their decision not to speak about their experiences of sexual assault and the fear that doing so could jeopardise their chances of being given assignments in the future.
ProPublica’s Kim Barker said women attracted to international journalism have a “constant desire to prove ourselves, to show that we can play in that environment”. They generally don’t want to “cry sexual assault” she said:
I think it’s difficult for us to talk about this stuff because we don’t want to look like we’re weak, or whiners. The tendency of bosses is to want someone who knows what to do and doesn’t need hand-holding. The fear would be that they would just simply pull you from the assignment.
Rodney Pinder, head of the International News Safety Institute, which gives advice and assistance to journalists working in dangerous environments, told the CPJ that the organisation had encountered reluctance among female journalists when it conducted a 2005 survey of security issues facing women in the profession:
They didn’t want to encourage a situation in which male editors assigning stories might be reluctant to send a woman out in field. They felt that it might affect them negatively if their employers or their assignment editors felt that they had to be given special care, attention, protection.
I expenenced similar unwillingness among British journalists to discuss sexual assault when I worked on the journalists’ magazine Press Gazette. The concern that to do so could potentially harm their career is summed up by Jenny Nordberg, a New York-based Swedish correspondent, who was sexually assaulted by a crowd of men while in Pakistan in October 2007 to cover the return of exiled former prime minister Benazir Bhutto.
It’s embarrassing, and you feel like an idiot saying anything, especially when you are reporting on much, much greater horrors. But it still stays with you. I did not tell the editors for fear of losing assignments. That was definitely part of it. And I just did not want them to think of me as a girl. Especially when I am trying to be equal to, and better than, the boys. I may have told a female editor though, had I had one.
The CPJ report was promped by the assault of CBS correspondent Lara Logan in Cairo on 11 February, the night that President Hosni Mubarak’s rule was coming to an end. The report’s author CPJ senior editor, Lauren Wolfe, wrote in an earlier blog post that the after news of Logan’s attack broke, the organisation was asked why there was little on its website about sexual assaults, and what kind of data we have about women journalists and rape.
The simple answers are these: We have little on our site because sexual assault is not commonly reported to us – the data, therefore, is not available. What I can tell you is that we receive calls in which journalists report on risky conditions in particular cities or countries, sometimes telling us of their personal molestation or rape, and usually ask that we not share their private pain.
Channel 4 News international editor Lindsey Hilsum dealt adroitly with “old” debate about whether men and women run different risks as foreign correspondents that took place after Lara Logan was attacked .
Those who hate to see women reporting the big stories disguise their glee as concern, but their message is the same – you shouldn’t be out there.
But there is nothing especially dangerous about being female and on the frontline, she argued. In fact, there were times when being a woman in the Arab world is a distinct advantage:
Since female journalists are able to report all aspects of the story, not just what the men say or do, it is clearly an advantage to be a woman. Nonetheless, I believe men should still be allowed to report the Middle East. I understand their limitations, but I think they have a contribution to make and it would be wrong to discriminate against them. Inevitably, at times it will be dangerous to report the revolutions unrolling across the Arab world. But this is one of the most compelling and significant stories of our time, and we need to be there – men and women both.
The CPJ says that the assault against Logan may have “accelerated changes in attitudes”. In the US, the New York Times photojournalist Lynsey Addario’s disclosed the sexual abuse she endured while abducted with colleagues in Libya. Her colleague Stephen Farrell also told CPJ that he, too, was sexually abused in one instance while being held captive with Addario in Libya.
“The time for silence is over,” the report concludes.
A newly revised and updated edition of Frontline by David Loyn was published this week.
The acclaimed book chronicles the work of the Frontline news agency, founded by journalists Rory Peck, Peter Jouvenal, Vaughan Smith and Nicholas Della Casa.
First published in 2005, the latest edition features a foreword from BBC world affairs editor John Simpson, who writes that the book is “the history of a moment in television news, which was brief enough, yet so bright it will stay in the minds of everyone who experienced it, like staring into a torch-beam on a dark night.”
Frontline Television’s reporters were motivated to document the true horrors of war and courageously went where other news organisations feared to tread. Risking everything to show the truth, they travelled the world’s most dangerous places in a quest to live life to the full, a quest some paid for with their lives. (Two of FTV’s founders, Peck and Della Casa, are now dead: killed in action.)
Between them, this colourful collection of adventurers and ex-army officers captured some of the key images at the end of the Cold War, and the fractured, fissile world which emerged.
The way they lived and died was an anachronism; they were eccentrics who might have been happier fighting wars in the British Empire a century before. Instead, they brought back pictures from the worst war zones the late twentieth century had to offer. And it suited them.
For the men of Frontline, how things were done was as important as what was done. All four of the founders, and those they recruited, shared the same panache, wit, and disdain for authority, planning the next trip to the Hindu Kush in the bar of the Ritz.
Their story reads like a latter-day Rudyard Kipling adventure. But while their lives may have been lived as if they were still playing the Great Game, they also cared passionately about their work and the truth it conveyed.
Part Bang Bang Club, part Flashman, Frontline is the gripping story of lives lived to the full in some of the worst places on earth.
“Loyn does a terrific job. His methodical, journalistic approach is perfect for grounding out a yarn that nobody would dare make up” Time Out – Book of the Week
“A gripping story, splashed with devil-may-care colour and scarcely credible tales of derring-do” The Guardian
“Girls, booze, physical hardship and flying bullets … Loyn keeps his narrative rattling along nicely” Daily Mail
“Barnstorming non-fiction. Every page is full of the kind of chutzpah, grit and valour that makes your own nine-to-five seem gut-wrenchingly futile.” Arena
“Hugely entertaining … the nearest thing to a Victorian adventure romp of empire against a background of fine marijuana, ‘Hotel California’, and the wheep and chirrup of satellite technology” Literary review
The Frontline Club is the London hub for a diverse group of people united by their passion for the best quality journalism. With its elegant restaurant serving the best of British cuisine and its atmospheric members' bar, the Frontline Club is a unique place to discuss, debate and be inspired. Our events, screenings, workshops and restaurant are open to the public.