Facilitating safe and secure satellite communications for newsgatherers has always been one of Thuraya’s top priorities. By collaborating with key non-governmental groups, Thuraya helps to keep journalists reporting from conflict zones and disaster-stricken areas connected at all times, enabling them to report freely without fear.
In 2013, Thuraya partnered with the Rory Peck Trust, the only organization in the world dedicated to the safety and welfare of freelance newsgatherers and their families, on a joint sponsorship to support the work of award-winning freelance photographer Sebastian Meyer. A co-founder of Iraq's first photo agency Metrography, Meyer received the Thuraya IP+ broadband terminal plus a package of free airtime.
The Rory Peck Trust is named for the journalist Rory Peck, who died during Russia’s 1993 coup. As he was a freelancer, his family did not receive financial support. They later set up a small charity to help families of freelance journalists in similar situations.
We spoke to Tina Carr, Director of Rory Peck Trust, about the risks journalists face, and the Trust’s mandate to protect and promote their security, safety and welfare.
Q1: Can you share with us more about the work that Rory Peck Trust does?
Carr: What we do is unique. We are entirely devoted to supporting and assisting freelance newsgatherers around the world, including journalists, photojournalists, videographers, fixers, as well as their families. There is no other organization in the world that is solely dedicated to this line of work.
Q2: Why the focus on supporting freelancers?
Carr: Freelancers have to work without the backing, support and infrastructure of an organization that staff journalists typically enjoy. Many freelance journalists work alone, and most work without any official industry support or protection. So when things go wrong, there is often nobody there to help them — except the Rory Peck Trust.
Q3: How do you support their work?
Carr: We support them financially with small, targeted grants that provide practical support and assistance. For instance, we help injured freelancers with their medical bills for emergency treatment or long-term physiotherapy, and we help those who are being threatened in their own country find safety for themselves and their families.
We also help freelancers facing prosecution and imprisonment pay for legal assistance, as well as provide support for the families of freelancers who have been killed, imprisoned, kidnapped or injured. There are many different ways that our grants can help them, and we make it a point to work closely with each individual to ensure that our grants provide the best help possible for them and their circumstances.
We also provide bursaries that enable freelancers to enrol in special safety training courses so that they know how to work more safely in hostile environments. Freelancers working in conflict zones are increasingly becoming targets of violence, even in their own countries. It’s vital that they have the knowledge and training that can help them deal with this. But these courses can be expensive. Our bursaries cover between 50 to 70 per cent of course costs which makes them affordable. Without this support, most freelancers would be unable to have safety training.
A large part of the support that we provide is not financial. We have always given advice, information and guidance on a range of issues that affect the work of freelancers — for example, insurance — and we also put them in touch with partner organizations who can provide specialist help such as trauma therapy, asylum, and relevant skills training. And we are currently working on a series of online resources for freelancers.
Q4: Your work is global. Do you currently have offices in different countries?
Carr: The Rory Peck Trust is actually a surprisingly small organization based in London. We don’t have offices in other countries, but we do have a very wide network of partners, links, and personal contacts with NGOs, journalist organizations, the media, and freelancers on the ground. Because of this, we’re able to punch above our weight and make the best use of the funds that we receive.
By collaborating with our partners, we’re also able to help freelancers benefit from special workshops and projects connected to their country, region or situation. For instance, in April, we ran a two-day trauma workshop in Istanbul for freelance journalists working in Syria, and last year co-held a series of safety workshops for freelancers living and working in Guatemala, which has become increasingly dangerous for journalists in recent years.
As a small organization, we’re able to maintain a very personal relationship with all those we help, as well as with our stakeholders and media partners whom we have longstanding relationships with. We usually keep in touch with our beneficiaries over several years.
Q5: Who funds your operations?
Carr: Good question. We rely entirely on donations, sponsorship and grants to carry out our work. Our committed media supporters include BBC, ITV, NBC, Reuters, BSkyB, Sony and Associated Press. We are also supported by human rights organizations such as the Open Society Foundation and the Oak Foundation.
There is also a lot of grassroots support from the media industry, and it’s always helpful for us when an organization runs a really good fundraising event. For example, in July, a team from the CBS News London bureau ran the 10k London run, raising over £12,000 (USD18,700) for our work. We can make this money go a very long way.
Q6. What would you be able to do with more funding support?
Carr: With more funds, we’d be able to help more freelancers. We could increase the amount of grants and bursaries, run more projects, and ensure that journalists who are putting their lives at risk are better protected and looked after. At present, we are unable to meet the growing demand for support and assistance, and we sometimes have to turn down deserving cases because we don’t have enough money.
The job has become more dangerous and unpredictable for journalists around the world, and the freelance community — the most vulnerable — is growing fast.
With increased funding support, we would also be able to grow our presence in countries such as India and Pakistan, which require more time and resources. When people support us, whether through direct donations or sponsorships, we feel that it’s their way of showing recognition for the brave men and women who bring us the news and stories that inform our lives. The Rory Peck Trust needs to be there for them, or they would have no other means of support.
To learn more about the Rory Peck Trust and how you can support their work, visit www.rorypecktrust.org
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