BIRN Kosovo Holds Hostile Environment Awareness Training for Journalists

Posted on

On June 19, BIRN Kosovo held a HEAT – Hostile Environment Awareness Training – Safety and the Integrity of Information in Crisis Reporting for Kosovo journalists.

Photo: BIRN

The main was to provide journalists with specialized knowledge that helps them protect themselves and their newsrooms from different kinds of attacks, including physical attacks, during crisis reporting and protests.

Kreshnik Gashi, Managing Editor of, spoke about safe and ethical reporting in emergency and crisis reporting and how to organise the planning desk and teams in the field, how to cover specific regions where the local language is not spoken, undercover filming, and creating protocols for safety and security of media outlets.

The second session was held by a special guest, Vaughan Smith, founder of the Frontline Club in London, who has a long experience working with BBC News and Channel 4, and whose work was focused mostly on the wars in the western Balkans. Specifically, he covered the wars both in Bosnia and Kosovo.

Vaughan Smith talked about crisis situations, giving examples of his rich experience as a video reporter in different conflict zones. He spoke about the protection of journalists in protests, how to deal with a mob, identifying weapons, managing tear gas, negotiations between journalists and violent men, and how to get interviews with them.

He took examples from recent events in Kosovo, where journalists from different media outlets in Kosovo were attacked by masked protesters in the north as local Serbs protested against newly elected mayors in elections that they had boycotted en masse.

The session was facilitated by Jeta Xharra, BIRN Kosovo Executive Director who also covered the Kosovo war together with Vaughan Smith. They also spoke about the mindset of journalists when reporting during a crisis, creating contacts with armed forces, protecting equipment and other valuables, but also about PTSD and the mental health of reporters.

Xharra also talked about the management of crisis situations, how safe it is to take risks during tensions, damage coverage from insurance companies in Kosovo, how to mobilise to protect oneself and other colleagues from attacks but also sexual harassment.

The final session was led by Bane Krstic, a Kosovo Serbian freelance journalist, and by Valdet Salihu, a producer of the “Kallxo Pernime” TV Program. This session covered the topic of “Telling the other side of the story” and finding sources from the other community, as Kosovo Albanian journalists report from the north where the majority of citizens are Serbian, and vice versa. The trainers talked also on how to behave when reporters are stuck in the middle of a protest, and where to get help when covering difficult events.