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Editorial | War coverage

Protecting freelance journalists

War correspondents rush into the places others are fleeing, frequently jeopardizing their own safety to provide uncompromised accounts of messy conflicts. Valuing this service requires properly equipping the men and women who provide it. The new group Reporters Instructed in Saving Colleagues is making a praiseworthy effort to do so.

Author Sebastian Junger began the medical training program after the 2011 death of his friend, the award-winning photojournalist Tim Hetherington. Junger believes Hetherington, hit by shrapnel in Libya, would still be alive if he and others around him had received the safety training that news organizations, in flusher times, sponsored for staff members headed into war zones. But, like some 80 percent of combat reporters today, Hetherington was a freelancer.

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Junger is trying to fill the role news organizations used to play. Through the efforts of RISC, freelancers are offered training taught by medics three times a year. They learn basic procedures of battlefield medicine such as how to stem bleeding or clear airways. Each graduate also receives a combat medical kit to take into the field.

Twenty-three journalists have been killed in 2013 so far, just in the course of doing their job, according to the International Press Institute. Junger and RISC should be applauded for ensuring that, in his death, Hetherington will save the lives of many colleagues.

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