Journalist safety, both physical and psychological, has become a progressively important topic in the Asia-Pacific region. Media professionals are likely to witness tragedy, conflict, disaster or violence, which takes a toll on their emotional well-being. They carry with them what they have witnessed, and if not properly managed this may damage their physical and mental health.
Dart Centre Asia Pacific (DCAP) is a unique organization that draws upon a network of media professionals, mental health experts, educators and researchers to assist in raising awareness of the relationship between trauma, psychological and physical safety, and quality ethical reporting. Through support and funding from UNESCO’s International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC), DCAP was able to create a fellowship programme providing specialized training to media professionals from across the Asia-Pacific region and from all journalistic mediums on the negative effects of psychological trauma exposure and on how to deal with it.
DCAP has recognized that the safety training contributes not only to personal well-being, but also to press freedom in general, as it enables journalists to better report in traumatic conditions. The fellowship programme, titled “Enhancing Understanding of Traumatic Exposure as a Safety Issue for Journalists,” began on 12 May 2013 at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok with 24 media professionals in attendance. The trainers were specialists in psychological safety and well-being, in professional journalistic ethics, and in the issues related to victims of violence and trauma. Therefore, participants received training that served a dual purpose: to gain skills for reporting in situations of trauma, and for protecting their emotional health after a trauma exposure.
The project was designed with two stages so that knowledge gained during the fellowship would be carried forward, passed on to others in the journalists’ home regions or areas of work. The second stage involves ongoing support for participants to educate colleagues in their home countries about the relationship between exposure to trauma and the role of reporting. The support will remain in place until first stage participants are confident and skilled enough to facilitate ongoing trainings in their home countries. Many were already able to express the positive effects of the programme soon after the on-site training. “Dart Centre fellowship is something that helps one to be a better journalist, a leader in his/her community and also to be a better person,” said one participant.
With the support of UNESCO and the IPDC, Dart Centre Asia Pacific was able to carry out a successful and powerful programme. “Dart Asia Pacific Fellowship has been an eye opener for me. I have learned more than I have hoped to gain from this fellowship and I am willing to carry this message forward in my home country and beyond,” one participant shared. The willingness to take learned knowledge back home is essential in carrying on the outcomes of the programme, and ensures that positive effects will be seen for years to come.