Chris Cramer's epitaph: Journalist safety
Sunday 17 January 2021
As well as being a great newsman, Chris Cramer was one of the world’s foremost advocates of safer quality journalism.
He believed passionately that journalists working in dangerous situations, from war to political persecution, could better protect themselves given appropriate training and equipment - and pre- and post-operational care by their employers.
My long association with Chris began in 2000 after Kurt Schork of Reuters and Miguel Gil Moreno of The AP were killed in an ambush in Sierra Leone.
The Freedom Forum in London staged a debate on the tragedy led by a panel including Chris, the heads of news at BBC Television, ITN, the AP and myself as global editor of Reuters TV.
Miguel Gil’s family, clearly impatient, broke into the rather long-winded proceedings, saying journalists were good at talking on such occasions but “what do you intend to do?”
Our answer (after much discussion) was to set up the International News Safety Institute (INSI), a network of world news organisation dedicated to greater safety of journalists on the front lines of danger. Chris, by acclamation, was our founding president and I - free and available after retiring from Reuters - worked alongside him as director.
Chris was a tireless campaigner for our cause and personally took on the costs of publishing in 2003 our first book, Dying To Tell The Story, a tribute to the brave men and women journalists who were killed covering the first Iraq War, with lessons learned.
Chris’s foreword highlighted a worrying trend - journalists being targeted for harassment, assault and even murder - and the impact on the mental health of frontline reporters at the time when PTSD was barely heard of.
Alongside the huge pressures of his day jobs, for CNN and later Reuters, Chris tirelessly worked his international connections to bring a host of major news organisations into the INSI fold where they learned of hostile environment training and other physical safety techniques as well as “armour for the mind”, counselling and other aids for traumatised journalists suffering from the terrible things they had witnessed on our behalf.
Over the years he was at the INSI helm journalist safety practices became the norm among responsible news organisations.
Chris Cramer undoubtedly can be accredited for saving an unknowable number of journalist lives around the globe. Some epitaph. ■