How to stay alive in a war
THE FIRST training session that Andrew Kain organised in 1991 was "a bit tense", he told the March Branch meeting: "journalists tended to believe that soldiers, especially Special Air Service members, were knuckle-dragging right-wingers, and soldiers tended to think of journalists as lefties determined to drag society down."
One of the main things such training can do for journalists is give them skills in working out what is going on. "Inside most of those uniforms are scared 18-year-old boys," Andrew reminded us, "and that has a lot to do with what happens when things go wrong, especially these days in Iraq." If such a boy is expecting to see a particular style of person come round a corner, and a journalist comes round it with a camera and a flak jacket... bad things may happen.
There are other times when journalists have been deliberately targeted. Part of the training is in recognising those times when soldiers could fire at you.
The reason Andrew started AKE Training was that more journalists were killed in Bosnia than in the whole of the Vietnam law, where they were running around freely.
Now, Iraq is the most dangerous place for journalists. There is no ability to go where you like and be seen as an independent arbiter and observer, holding all sides to account. There are people there who are very sophisticated in using the media. They made the front page of every UK paper with Ken Begley's 11-minute video appeal to Tony Blair. And that makes it all the more important that Western journalists show responsibility toward the locals who they rely on, who will still be there when they've gone home. AKE has held courses in for Iraqi journalists, as well as highly-tailored regional courses, for example taking a group from B-92 radio in Belgrade to Montenegro.
- For details of bursaries for freelances attending AKE's courses, see www.rorypecktrust.org. And for news of courses on dealing with less-intensely-dangerous assignments, such as public order situations in the UK, try www.nujtraining.org.uk