THE International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has collaborated with Insurance for Journalists to launch a scheme of flexible, low-cost protection plans for freelance reporters and media personnel who struggle to find insurance when reporting at home or abroad.
IFJ’s new insurance plans, announced just last week, vary based on the risk level of the journalist’s location as well as the length of time they intend to stay. Each plan has a minimum $10 administrative fee, and the prices range from $12 for one week in a low-risk zone, to $208 for four weeks in an extreme-risk zone.
Designed by journalists for journalists, the new plans offer all the protections under any standard policy and are expanded to cover war zones as well as regions affected by terrorism and civil war. “For too long, journalists, particularly freelance journalists, have faced dizzying array of insurance products most of which are not fit for purpose,” IFJ Deputy Secretary General Jeremy Dear told MediaFile in an interview.
The coverage accommodates journalists travelling in their home countries and abroad, and it includes protection for accidental death and disablement as well as evacuation and repatriation. While IFJ’s plans are available for journalists covering sports, events, music, and cultural events in their home country, they also cover war, rebellion, civil war, terrorism and military transportation, which is necessary for travel through some of the world’s most hostile regions.
According to Reporters Without Borders (RSF), exorbitant insurance costs coupled with lack of information about insurance plans are the main reasons for reporters traveling without any coverage.
“One of the greatest hurdles facing freelancers is the inability to buy affordable health and disability insurance from a reputable company,” said Colin Pereira, journalist safety consultant for the Committee to Protect Journalists, in an interview with MediaFile. “This means many are working without any safety blanket if they are injured, require medical evacuation or legal assistance.”
Frank Giglio, a former news production manager for ABC and Fox News stated, “The majority of news organisations and media outlets rely on the freelance community to cover breaking news, documentaries and special events, it is essential that each individual or group are properly insured.”
Reporters Without Borders (RSF), another international organization for freelance journalists, mandates that reporters using its services must also enroll in one of its insurance plans. Their insurance plan has been available since 2009, and several hundred journalists have used it to travel to countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, Ukraine, and Syria.
While geared towards freelance journalists in combat zones, Dear stated that IFJ’s insurance covers “anyone involved in created the journalistic product, be it staff journalists, camera crews, sound engineers, drivers, etc.”
The launch of the IFJ’s insurance plans follows their 25th annual report on journalists and media staff killed between 1990 and 2015. The highest death rates were in Iraq (309), the Philippines (146) and Mexico (120), totalling 2,297 deaths worldwide. According to their website, 112 media professionals were killed in 2016.
The IFJ, which was originally founded in 1926 and relaunched in 1952, is the world’s largest journalist organization, representing 600,000 journalists in 140 countries. Centered in Brussels, the IFJ has regional headquarters in Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East. The organization defends global freedom of the press by creating independent trade unions of journalists, monitoring freedom violations, campaigning for safety, and speaking on behalf of journalists with the United Nations.
“We have had an excellent response from our affiliates around the world and there have been hundreds of queries in just the first few days,” Dear stated.
IFJ plans to promote the scheme globally and work with media companies to provide group coverage for staff and freelancers.