The Doha Centre for Media Freedom (DCMF) has granted emergency aid to 31 cases who approached the organisation between November 2011 and April 2012.
In total, $80,943 (QAR 294,484) was granted to those journalists who contacted the DCMF with serious requests for help, including medical and legal support, shelter and assistance restarting a career in media. On average therefore, the journalists in need received a sum of $2,600 (QAR 9,474).
The Emergency Assistance (EA) team received 68 requests in total, of which 45 percent met the criteria. Most came from the Arab region, followed by Africa.
“The aim,” said EA senior coordinator Ole Chavannes, “is to make sure that journalists in trouble do not feel alone. Every request is answered in 24 hours.”
The team does also receive requests for help from other regions, such as Asia, Latin America and Europe.
“In these other regions, there are many journalists in trouble as well. But since we started only six months ago, we are still in the process of building up networks there,” Chavannes explained.
Professional journalists, including journalistic bloggers, can request help, as soon as their work has brought them into trouble.
Somalia on top
As the result of a bomb attack last April, Somalia received the lion’s share of DCMF’s aid packages .
On April 4, a young woman strapped with explosives detonated her suicide belt during a ceremony at the Somali National Theatre, just as Prime Minister Abdiweli Mohamed Ali was delivering a speech to around 200 people.
Four people, including top sports officials, died in the explosion at the newly reopened theatre at the event to celebrate the one-year anniversary of Somalia's first satellite broadcaster.
Ten journalists were injured, some more seriously, in the blast, which the militant group Al-Shabaab took responsibility for.
On April 20, the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) delivered $9,000 (QAR 32,769) in medical assistance to six of them, provided by the Doha Centre for Media Freedom (DCMF).
“This may seem a lot, but doesn’t cover the medical costs by far. That is why EA is connected to the international platform of fellow international media supporting Non Governmental Organisations,” said Chavannes. A collective of around 30 institutes transferred over $22,000 (QAR 80,168) within three weeks. “This international support shows the cooperation among the media NGOs is effective and together we are getting better in helping journalists under attack, wherever they are.”
Ways of support
The first need of journalists is medical assistance, symbolised by the 25 requests the EA team received in this area.
In November, the DCMF sent medical aid to Ahmed Fiqqy an Egyptian journalist who got shot in his eye by a sniper during demonstrations on the Tahrir Square.
“Within 48 hours, EA allocated him a grant for his medical care. He is out of hospital now; physically healed, but psychologically still recovering,” Chavannes explained.
(Above: Fiqqy before and after the attack)
Eleven requests were received for legal assistance, which has become easier to provide now that the DCMF is networked with 50 local lawyer and regional networks. “Often journalists revealing corruption by local authorities are being sued for defamation. They need quickly a good lawyer. Sometimes charges are dropped immediately, just because this local reporter suddenly turns up with a good lawyer with backup from Doha,” Chavannes said.
Shelter comes at the third position, with seven requests. Some need to hide out in a secret location for a while, others must flee a country after persistent death threats and there are those who are on a journey to become a refugee.
“EA cannot solve these problems alone, but support together with international partners and lobbying with authorities like the UNHCR, EA can contribute to a small part of the solution,” Chavannes explained.
There is a final type of help offered by the DCMF -- the assistance to rebuild a career.
In December 2011, EA helped a Kurdish journalist from Iraq in France, Halgurd Samad, to generate his own income by creating a new web radio station with news in French and Kurdish. EA granted the purchase of basic equipment and advised him on developing online advertising to make his own money after the supported start up.
“Emergency Assistance is needed went everything goes wrong. But we also help develop preventive tools, to avoid emergencies occur,” Chavannes said. EA works in close cooperation with DCMF’s Training Programme to build more knowledge among the media community on the rights of journalists and how to improve their own safety and convince their employers to train and insure their personnel well.
Innovative projects to support these preventive initiatives are on the roll too. DCMF will soon participate in the development of a new mobile application that allows real time tracing of journalists who are doing dangerous reporting. As soon as the reporter is under attack, an international alert with its position is send out.
“The system is in an early testing phase, but as soon as the bugs are out, it will allow faster emergency assistance. Besides that it hopefully will make attackers of independent reporters realise better threatening a local journalist will lead immediately to international exposure.”
To find our more information about how to get in touch with EA, visit this link.
Here are a few quotes from those EA has worked with in the six month period:
"Thank you for your support and solidarity, it is really very great and encouraging when someone facing such circumstances feel and know that he is not alone. I appreciate your effort and statement, and would like to thank you personally and all your staff for that."
Faisal Salih, a journalist in Sudan was arrested by security forces for nine days. The DCMF made a statement, condemning the behaviour of the security forces and demanded immediate release.
"Thank you so very much for being so kindhearted, helping me out in this desperate, dreadful, emotional life-altering experience. So many emotions are felt right now in this time of despair. Your assistance will help me through this. Thank you so much! I really appreciate it; I needed this help very much. You are doing a great and wonderful work, Almighty God Bless You."
Godwin Agaba is a journalist from Rwanda who was forced to flee to Uganda and after that Kenya following death threats from security agents. He was injured during his travel. The DCMF supported his relocation and medical costs.
"The purpose of writing this mail is to acknowledge that receiving the grant has saved me from the stress I have been undergoing, even as threats persist in my line of duty by forces opposed to change and good governance."
David Musundi is a television reporter in Kenya who worked on a programme on fake maize seeds. After that, he received death threats and had to hide. The DCMF supported a safe hiding for him and his family.
"This is to acknowledge that I received the DCMF's kind donation towards my treatment. Please convey my heartfelt gratitude and appreciation from my family to DCMF. I have been re-energised by the kind donation from DCMF. With God's will, I have hope and faith that I will regain my mobility. DCMF has made a great contribution towards this effort."
Charles Ariko is a freelance reporter (radio and paper) in Uganda. He got injured during work on his spinal cord and received medical assistance from DCMF to get back to work.