Supporting freelances in crisis

The work of the Rory Peck Trust, which supports freelance journalists in crisis, was described by its communications officer Molly Clarke at October's London Freelance Branch meeting. (We also heard from Gavin Rees, director of the Dart Centre Europe for journalism and trauma, an organisation that works with the Rory Peck Trust, see here for his contribution.)

Molly Clarke; photo: Hazel Dunlop

Molly Clarke of the Rory Peck Trust

The Trust was set up 1995 to help Juliet Peck, widow of freelance cameramen Rory Peck who was killed filming clashes between Yeltsin loyalists and supporters of Russia's Parliament in Moscow in 1993. Initially the Trust was just for freelance cameramen and camerawomen in current affairs. Nowadays most of those they support "work outside of the broadcast industry not within it".

In the last ten years, says Molly, "we've evolved and grown, so we now support all freelances in any discipline across the world." There's a staff of "12 of us in an office in London, most of us are part time, working with... international partners and local partners".

Assistance grants "exist at the heart of our work", says Molly. 120 a year to freelances and their families "in a critical situation" - imprisoned, injured... in crisis, disappeared, in exile" and families of journalists who have been killed.

And "we do support UK freelances... who have got into trouble on the frontline... injured, arrested or kidnapped." Rory Peck Trust's responding to "new challenges" including "replacing kit stolen or confiscated". A lot of Rory Peck clients are in their own country but on investigative, the front line is coming closer. Increasingly "journalists come under attack in countries where that wasn't necessarily common."

They "also work in a preventative way - to help freelances safety, self-reliance, professionalism". These include grants for safety training courses" to "make them affordable for freelances." Grants from the Trust of £750 "cover about half the cost of a traditional five day training course".

Online resources on budgeting, negotiating, sources of funding, risk assessment are available from the Trust, "not just for people travelling to hostile environments but for any job".

Molly added that "we just started an initiative with the Frontline Club - half-hour "safety surgeries with a security expert"including digital security.

Then there are the Rory Peck Awards - this year's were on 23 October - which raise the "profile of freelances and what wonderful work they do, how the contribute to the industry" why "they need support - not only from us, but from news organisations, broadcasters, newspapers."

But "we're not a union... we fit in with what you do rather than overlap." They give legal advice but it tends not to be around "workplace." Their work is more supporting and strengthening the person, through which "you are then better prepared to do you work.

The Trust does "work closely with Dart with projects on different countries." Recently they did some work in this area in Ukraine. According to Molly, "We are seeing more requests for assistance grants around trauma psycho-social needs," and "digital - digital security".

Also, "we spent a lot of time encouraging people to do risk assessments before they go on assignment" and not just the more obvious risks either. "Crime, car crashes and robbery... are some of the biggest dangers... they can stop journalists doing their work".

In response to a question from NUJ Senior Freelance Organiser John Toner, Molly replied that, yes, the Rory Peck Trust would be interested in doing safety surgeries together with NUJ. Watch this space.