By Nick Wrenn, Head of News Partnerships, EMEA
Freelance journalists, photographers and video-journalists play a vital role in newsgathering. They report independently across all platforms, and are known for getting right to the heart of the story. In oppressive regimes, this is often at the point where freedom of expression and human rights intersect. Yet most freelance journalists work without the support and back up of a large media organisation which makes them especially vulnerable to threats, attack and abuse.
The Rory Peck Trust has proved a vital lifeline to freelance journalists reporting from a war zone or the underbelly of a humanitarian or constitutional crisis, giving out over 140 assistance grants in the last year. The Trust provides practical and financial support to freelance journalists and their families worldwide, assisting them in times of crisis and helping them to work more safely and professionally.
We will support the work of this incredible trust through a three-year, £100,000 sponsorship, as part of the Facebook Journalism Project. Starting this month, we will contribute to the trust’s freelance assistance programme, providing direct assistance to freelance journalists reporting on stories from some of the toughest places in the world.
Our hope is that this support will help journalists like Fabiola, a photojournalist who was attacked by a group of armed men while covering the political demonstrations in Venezuela last year. This type of attack is increasingly common as political groups try to intimidate and silence journalists. After her kit was stolen, a grant from the Trust enabled Fabiola to get a new camera and carry on reporting.
Or Kateryna, a Ukrainian journalist and fixer who has covered very distressing events while reporting on the conflict in her home region of Donbass for media including the BBC, Al Jazeera and NOS. She has also been threatened. Months later when she was in London covering the Grenfell Tower disaster, Kateryna began to experience symptoms of PTSD including nightmares and flashbacks. Support from the Trust meant that she could get the therapy she needed to recover and get back to work.
The Facebook Journalism Project was started to build closer ties with the publishing industry, and co-create new tools and features that would support reporters and publishers. But it was also created to provide better support for journalists of all kinds, whether they’re gathering facts from a newsroom floor or reporting from the frontline of a conflict. Through this partnership with the Rory Peck Trust we aim to help freelance journalists to find safety and support in times of crisis, stay connected to their families, replace vital kit if it’s stolen in the field, and receive crucial safety training.
Helping these journalists, and keeping them safe, is a cause that’s really important to me. The work of the freelance journalists the Rory Peck Trust supports is vital is bringing important stories to a global audience — stories often from wars and disaster areas, public demonstrations or investigations that otherwise we might not see. I’ve had the privilege of working with them for several years and we’re delighted to be able to help with these important projects.
There are thousands of freelance journalists in hostile environments right now, reporting on political injustice or maintaining a crucial flow of information from oppressive regimes. Thanks to the work of the Rory Peck Trust, long may they continue.