Journalists deploying to Poland and Ukraine for the Euro 2012 football competition should be aware of safety and security issues they may encounter there.
Violence flared when Polish and Russian fans clashed before a game earlier this week. According to reports, water cannons, tear gas and rubber bullets were used to disperse the mob while fireworks, bottles and other makeshift missiles were thrown by fans from both sides. It was reported that 183 people were arrested and 24 were wounded.
Football crowds are notoriously unpredictable – a crowd can quickly turn aggressive, particularly if fuelled by alcohol. Camera crews could be a target for attack. Equally an overreaction by the police can cause a situation to escalate.
Recent BBC investigations have uncovered evidence of racist violence and anti-Semitism in Polish and Ukrainian football matches, and the British Foreign Office advises that “travellers of Asian or Afro-Caribbean descent and individuals belonging to religious minorities should take extra care.”
Journalists travelling by car have also expressed concerns about road safety in Ukraine, with poor road surfaces and the occasional disregard for driving rules.
The International News Safety Institute issues the following safety advice for journalists operating in Poland and Ukraine for the Euro 2012 football competition:
Covering civil unrest
Before you head out
• Make sure your accreditation is in order and easily accessible.
• Alert authorities that your news organization plans to cover the protests, and obtain the cell number of the person in charge.
• Take protective gear. This can include helmets, gas masks, or vests, depending on what the local police force uses for crowd control.
• In case of tear gas, carry a bandana soaked in onion, lemon, or vinegar, which neutralizes irritation.
• Don’t wear contact lenses. Bring eye drops and spare glasses.
• If there’s a chance you might be pepper-sprayed, don’t wear face cream or cosmetics. They burn on contact.
• Wear comfortable boots that you can run in.
• Wear natural fabrics, which are less flammable than synthetic fabrics.
• Prepare a backpack with supplies to last a day: lightweight raingear, energy bars and water, spare batteries for electronic equipment.
• Pack a medical kit and know how to use it.
• Carry a photocopy of your press accreditation and telephone numbers of your editor and lawyer. Make sure your editor knows how to reach your family in case you’re arrested or hurt.
• Set your cell phone to speed dial an emergency number.
• If possible, explore the terrain ahead of time. Are there stores you can dart into? Can you arrange to film from a high vantage point? Negotiate a “safe” place where you can retreat if mayhem erupts.
At the scene
• Don’t go alone. Get someone to watch your back if you’re shooting pictures.
• As soon as you arrive, spot escape routes and look for landmarks like a tall building or lamppost. It’s easy to get disoriented in a crowd.
• Stay on the edge and do not get caught between police and protestors.
• Crowds have a life of their own. Stay aware of the prevailing mood.
• Alert your editors if the scene turns angry.
• Stay away from aggressive people. They may provoke a violent response.
• If planning to move, seek advice from people who have just come from the direction you’re heading.
• Television crews should travel as light as possible. If experiencing aggression, leave the tripod behind so that you can run fast. Consider concealing cameras / recording equipment as best you can when in a crowd.
• Consider your profile and try to portray anonymity in terms of where you are from and what you do e.g. remove logo’s from clothing.
• Consider that alcohol can lead to violence so be aware in and around bars.
Be aware of the signs of a deteriorating situation
• An increase in the noise level
• A change in the tension or mood of the crowd
• Sudden crowd surges
• The occasional missile thrown
• More aggressive behaviour vocally or physically
• The police adopting a more aggressive posture, perhaps with the donning of helmets and shields or restricting the crowd’s freedom of movement
When trouble erupts
• Avoid horses. They bite and kick.
• Stand upwind from tear gas.
• Do not position yourself between the police and the crowd.
• If the police detain you, insist that they call the cell phone of their boss, whose number you just so happen to have.
• Call your lawyer (if they are local and on standby) and editor
• Maintain a safe distance from violence.
INSI is monitoring the safety of journalists covering Euro 2012 and asks anybody with information on any incidents involving journalists to contact Rodney Pinder + 44 7734 70 92 67 firstname.lastname@example.org; or Hannah Storm +44 7766 814274 email@example.com