Fixers are vital

Marcel Berlins, former lawyer now journalist and columnist, attended screening of The Fixer at the Frontline Club recently and writes about the importance of their “unsung” role in foreign news reporting. You only have to look at the fate of the fixers in Somalia working with Amanda Lindhout and Nigel Brennan to see the danger they put themselves into,

Correspondents from television networks and newspapers all over the world arrive in a dangerous war-zone. They may be eager and intelligent journalists, but they usually do not speak the language of the country they’ve come to. Nor can they know the culture. Even experienced journalists who have paid frequent visits, even those based there for a few years, cannot have inside knowledge of the place and its people – and, perhaps more importantly, the antennae that quiver when something feels wrong. That is a gift that fixers possess.

“They see what we don’t,” an experienced war correspondent explained to me. “We couldn’t do our job without them. Unsung heroes.”

Their importance has not been rewarded commensurately. The usual formula was for foreign television teams to drop in, pay inadequately for their fixers’ services, and leave the scene. In particular, fixers were not covered by any insurance. If the glamorous reporter whose face appeared on the screen were to be blown up or injured, his or her family would be entitled to generous compensation. A fixer’s family would have nothing. link

In the wake of the killing of Ajmal Naqshbandi in Afghanistan in March, 2007, the Frontline Club set up the Fixer’s Fund to help these “unsung heroes”. You can donate here.