Freelancer safety as Camille Lepage is killed in CAR

Sad news that yet another young freelancer has been killed in a conflict zone.

Camille Lepage was on assignment in the Central African Republic – a very tough country to cover. A couple of months back I had a coffee with a correspondent just back from CAR. They were jittery and nervous. It was the all too common story of covering war in Africa: brutal violence, some of it seemingly random or triggered by inebriation, and the relentless nature of the story. No safe areas, no where to pull back to for some relief.

Eventually the story moved on. The big international players wound up their operations and freelancers moved in to fill the void in coverage.

You can see some of Camille’s work from CAR and South Sudan here. She was clearly very talented with what should have been a bright future ahead of her.

Western and global news organisations, such as the ones I’ve worked for, put a lot of time and effort into keeping their teams safe in the field. No-one’s infallible and tragedies still happen far too often. But a quick look at the CPJ website will tell you that most journalists are killed covering stories in their home countries by people who want them silenced.

The dirty little secret of international news is that so much of the best pictures, footage and access is produced by freelancers operating in places that staffers can’t and won’t. News-desks pay lip service to keeping freelancers safe, but troubling questions are raised by cases such as the one of the teenaged Molhem Barakat who died in Syria last year.

This isn’t a new phenomenon – The Rory Peck Trust was set up in memory of the freelance cameraman killed covering a gun battle in Moscow during the attempted coup of 1993. The trust now campaigns on behalf of freelancers and alongside organisations like the International News Safety Institute  tries to ensure journalists are kept safe when covering the tough and dangerous stories audiences need to know about.

But it does raise questions for journalism teachers. Camille graduated with a degree in journalism from Southampton University in 2012 – less than two years ago. Are we doing enough to help prepare young journalists for the risks they may face in the field?



Author: Matt Walsh


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