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CPJ Safety Advisory: Covering US protests over police violence

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CPJ Safety Advisory: Covering US protests over police violence

There have been several dozen incidents of violence and harassment, as well as arrests, targeting journalists covering recent protests across the U.S. sparked by the death on May 25, 2020 - in police custody - of George Floyd, an unarmed black man in Minneapolis, Minnesota, according to news reports and video and photos on live television and posted on social media. The police appear to be responsible for the majority of incidents, although crowds and protesters have also targeted media workers.

Visit the latest CPJ Safety Advisory for more detailed information. Be sure to listen to WAN-IFRA's dedicated podcast episode 'Covering protests: Staying safe to tell the story'.

Journalists covering the protests need to consider the following risks:

  • Police targeting of journalists with rubber bullets and projectiles
  • Liberal use of pepper spray by police - Police have used pepper spray against reporters on a number of occasions in the last 48 hours.
  • Arrest and detention - Journalists have been arrested despite identifying themselves as members of the media.
  • Threats from the crowd

Journalists covering the protests should consider and be aware of the following:

  • Media workers should not be expected to work alone.
  • Taking into account the increased levels of violence and tactics used by both police and protesters, ballistic glasses, helmets, and stab vests should be worn. If there is a threat of live ammunition being used, then body armor should be considered.
  • Consider the risk of COVID-19.
  • If reporting from a protest location, maintain situational awareness at all times and be aware of the threat from potential stampedes. Due to the prevalence of mob violence, consider reporting from a higher vantage point such as a building rooftop or balcony.
  • Always stay in close proximity to hard cover, keep to the periphery of the crowd, and have an emergency exit route planned. Consider using a “backwatcher” to help keep you aware of what is going on around you.
  • Keep to the outside of the crowd. Avoid being sucked into the middle of the crowd where it is hard to escape, and avoid getting trapped between the police and the protesters.
  • Always have a check-in procedure with your base, particularly if reporting from protest locations.
  • Keep your media credentials with you, and easily accessible at all times in case the police ask to see them.
  • Large crowds create potential risks of sexual assault. 
  • Working after dark is considerably more risky and should be avoided.

Visit the latest CPJ Safety Advisory for more detailed information.

CPJ's online Safety Kit provides journalists and newsrooms with basic safety information on physical, digital, and psychological safety resources and tools, including covering civil unrest.


Andrew Heslop's picture

Andrew Heslop


2020-06-01 10:47

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