CNN’s Anderson Cooper recently shared his account of being attacked in Cairo as did Christiane Amanpour. Both were very lucky to be traveling with camera crews and fixers. Not all the journalists covering the breaking news out of Egypt are traveling in groups or even have a single helper. Some of their accounts are pretty hairy and offer reminders of the dangers that come with working alone.
Photojournalist Andrew Burton experienced one such episode on Wednesday 03 February 2011 in Tahrir Square. Heading out to cover the protests he quickly found himself surrounded by a mob turning ever more violent. Andrew writes “I only escaped when the soldiers on top of the tank literally ripped me out of the crowd, lifting me by the armpits. I was dumped head first inside the tank. My shit – cameras, cell phone, notepad – everything went flying out of my pockets as I landed amongst the soldiers. As I got myself turned around, I found myself surrounded by 14 Egyptian soldiers – young men my age, smiling at me.” You can read the rest of his story here. Andrew finishes his account with a sad commentary of the state of reporting in Egypt, “No journalists I know are heading outside at the moment. TV is only showing footage from rooftops – no footage from on the ground. Reporters on the ground are giving live reports from their phones. I have no idea what is going to happen.”
Journalists@Risk is “an online community of media professionals with experience of work in hostile environments, including war zones.” This is a good site to go to for staying safe.
As Terry Anderson, CPJ honorary co-chairman and former Associated Press Beirut bureau chief, who was held hostage for nearly seven years in Lebanon, has said: “Always, constantly, constantly, every minute, weigh the benefits against the risks. And as soon as you come to the point where you feel uncomfortable with that equation, get out, go, leave it. It’s not worth it. There is no story worth getting killed for.” Words to live by!