Journalist’s death raises questions of media responsibility
Egyptian journalist Mayada Ashraf - YOUM7 (Archive)

CAIRO: Covering protests and street clashes is de rigeur among Egyptian journalists, but the Friday death of Mayada Ashraf, 23, a reporter for Al-Dostor newspaper, has raised questions among some local journalists about the lack of training received by journalists sent into the field.

“A journalist’s death should not be used to settle political scores; the focus should be on the journalists’ right to safely cover events in Egypt,” Committee to Protect Journalists’ (CPJ) Middle East and North Africa program coordinator Sherif Mansour said in a Friday report.

Abdel Khaleq, 24, a reporter for Sada el-Balad news website, told The Cairo Post that trainees face the biggest risk, since they are tasked with covering protests with neither experience nor press credentials.

“We first dream about working in the field, then we seek job contracts, and then we try to become members of the Press Syndicate,” Khaleq said. He graduated in 2012 and has been covering protests since.

Some trainees, however, go in the beginning with reporters with experience, but both are vulnerable, Khaleq said. “We gained our skills not from training but from being in the streets, where we saw death or experienced injury.”

“Media institutions should provide training and there should be guarantees by security agencies to protect journalists,” Khaleq said.

Press Syndicate Council member Khaled el-Balshy told The Cairo Post Saturday that protecting journalists is a joint responsibility between the syndicate, press institutions, and national security.

Press institutions should provide trainings for journalists to be qualified to cover such clashes and demonstrations, which are “not less dangerous than civil wars,” Balshy said.

Sahar Ali, 22, a reporter at Veto Gate told The Cairo Post the institution gave their reporters body armor, but not all of them wear it because they say it is too heavy. “I have been in the field of journalism for eight months and I am responsible for covering protests and events in Matariya [East Cairo],” she said.

Ali said she did not receive any training, but was only given verbal safety instructions before being sent out to the streets.

Khaleq said the current incidents are different from previous ones, that they are now facing live rounds. “It turned into a war, not protests.”

Since the events of June 30 , 10 journalists have been killed, and dozens injured and detained, according to the Journalists Against Torture’s Facebook page.

A report issued by CPJ in December 2013 listed Egypt among the top three deadliest countries for journalists in 2013.

Former head of Cairo reporters in BBC Khaled Ezz el-Arab said that media institutions should not allow unqualified reporters to cover dangerous events such as protests, accidents, fire, and natural disasters.

 “The BBC provides a one-week training for reporters before covering protests,” Arab said, adding that the training includes first aid training as well as instruction on how to recognize dangerous areas.

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