Police urge journalists to take safety precautions during their work


ZAMBIA Police deputy spokesperson Rae Hamoonga says it is important for journalists in Zambia to take major safety, security and ethical precautions during their work. During a media training on safety and security of journalists organised by Bloggers of Zambia, Hamoonga said professionalism and etiquette must be the hallmarks of independent journalism if news had to be gathered, processed and published. Hamoonga said there was need to enhance skills and techniques of Zambian journalists on safety and security during their work when covering violent and non-violent activities.

He said Zambian journalists have not done well in terms of properly identifying themselves during public events, which was a necessity as it makes it possible for the police to ensure their safety. Hamoonga said journalists must consider wearing correct clothing when covering particular assignments. He said violent crowds and riots were some of the events where journalists were prone to being caught in the crossfire.

“Your life is worth more than a story you are covering. It is important to ensure safety and security during events, especially those violent in nature,” he said.

Hamoonga said journalists must understand police operations such as where to position themselves between the police and protestors as this had the risk of getting journalists at risk of being affected when police use minimum force. He said the police had certain methods of crowd control such as the discharge of teargas, which could affect journalists, and he advised the media not to take such as harassment when they are found in such circumstances. He said the police had the duty to fight crime using the laws of Zambia, adding that reporters must understand police work even when covering events involving very important persons such as the President.

He said fighting crime was for everyone but people wanted to wait for something to happen to them before they get involved. Hamoonga said the police were working every day to control to crime. He said it was not easy for police officers to kill a fellow human being during their line of duty as it was traumatising to them as well. Zambia Cyber Security Initiative Foundation’s  John Tshinseki said journalists must ensure their safety and security online.

He said it was important for journalists to ensure personal data protections strategies as well as cyber security to protect against intrusion and surveillance.

“Remember to disconnect whenever an online operation is finished. Remember to disconnect after checking your email, Facebook account or Twitter handle. Erase your browsing history. Never save a password in the browser of a public computer. If you have saved one by mistake, erase the browsing history when you finish working. Turn off geolocation in your apps unless you need to use it. If you are using your mobile phone to stream video live, turn off the GPS and geolocation functions,” he said.

And Bloggers of Zambia founder and CEO Richard Mulonga commended the Zambia Police Service for embracing the project to enhance safety, security and ethics for Zambian journalists.

Mulonga said there were many skirmishes, misunderstandings and myths between the police and the media in Zambia, adding that this project, which will involve dialogue forums in all provinces between the police and the media would help ameliorate the situation.

The training is part of the project called ‘Police-media relations for the safety and security of journalism in Zambia’, which is being supported by the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs through the German Embassy.

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