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Please don’t go to Ukraine solo!

Ukraine: donations to IFJ’s fund, please

THE NUJ's National Executive Council has had enquiries from Branch officers about which organisations members should donate to in support of Ukrainian journalists. NUJ General Secretary Michelle Stanistreet and Jim Boumela, who sits on the Independent Federation of Journalists (IFJ) steering committee, recommend that members thinking of giving should donate exclusively to the IFJ/EFJ Safety Fund.

Jim reports that the NUJ, via the IFJ (of which the NUJ is an affiliate), is in almost daily contact with the two Ukrainian IFJ affiliates: the National Union of Journalists of Ukraine and the Independent Media Union of Ukraine. The priorities these unions have identified and for which they require support are protective equipment for Ukrainian journalists covering the conflict and assistance in moving the headquarters of one of the affiliate unions to a safer location in western Ukraine.

Watch for a possible motion to be debated at the forthcoming LFB meeting on a donation by the Branch to the IFJ Safety Fund.

And don't forget the journalists and their families who are still in need in Afghanistan and those who have had to flee Afghanistan. They still need our support more than ever.

Don't go

To those freelances who are thinking of making a name for themselves by covering the war, especially younger entry-level freelances thiniking of going unsupported: our advice is DON'T.

The least bad of a range of very bad outcomes is that you will get in the way and tie up the time and resources of people who are having to look out for you, putting them at risk and diverting them from other work they need to do elsewhere. You could end up as some sort of human shield or bargaining chip in prisoner exchanges. You could be mistaken for a "saboteur".

British-Lebanese filmmaker and journalist Oz Katerji tweeted from Kiev on 26 February, in response to enquiries from other freelances: "I can't believe I have to say this, but I've received a few messages like this now... under no circumstances should you attempt to come here. It is incredibly dangerous, and almost certainly impossible to make it to this city now. Even the most seasoned professionals are leaving."

Oz added: "If you have an impulse to do anything, protest about the war at home or help refugees fleeing Ukraine. Those are your only two options." (Oz's tweets reproduced here with his permission.) We see profile photos of Oz is properly equipped to cover a conflict - wearing a steel helmet and a PRESS Kevlar jacket.

The Freelance recalls the fate of young freelances who went to cover the early stages of the Syrian civil war, especially journalists from Italy. They reported that they were filing dispatches for which they were being paid US $100 each – roughly the price of a mattress for the night in a safe house in Aleppo at the time. They risked their lives only to be exploited by news outlets that didn't pay them enough even to cover their expenses. Unsurprisingly, the promised opportunities to earn big money off the back of their "exposure" and their Syrian civil war coverage mostly failed to materialise.

See advice from the NUJ on staying safe on the job, both physically and psychologically, on the StorySmart website. For properly-prepared freelances readying themselves or dealing with the aftermath of a properly-thought-out assignment there is a Freelance Assistance Fund from the Rory Peck Foundation. As part of serious and unhurried advanced planning for going to cover a conflict zone for which you have proper support, holders of an IFJ International Press Card can check whether the IFJ's insurance partner Battleface offers insurance for specific hostile environments they are contemplating going to.