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ARTICLE 19 and RSF offer resources for reporters covering Japan crisis

French Red Cross

IFEX members Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and ARTICLE 19 are offering resources for the Japanese and international media in the wake of the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear power plant explosions in Japan.

A special section in the Handbook for Journalists, published jointly in French and English by RSF and UNESCO, raises several points about the role of journalists in a major humanitarian disaster. "Journalists help to mobilise public opinion and international generosity, assist with the location of survivors and help evaluate the population's most urgent needs," notes RSF.

RSF calls on the Japanese authorities to do everything possible to provide the public with detailed information about the consequences of the disaster, especially the effects of the radiation leaks on the population's health.

RSF also encourages foreign journalists to contact their own country's foreign ministry before travelling to the disaster areas to get information about the risks and how to reduce them.

Reporters should also check websites with information about minimising the risks of radiation exposures, such as these special pages of the BBC, French Red Cross and Google Crisis Response.

Meanwhile, ARTICLE 19 says that the Japan situation demonstrates the "crucial" need to respect, protect and fulfil the right to information. According to ARTICLE 19's resource, Humanitarian Disasters And Information Rights, access to information in the aftermath of a disaster can mitigate the loss of life; reduce panic; direct people on how and where to get essential services; facilitate contact with relatives and friends; assist in the discovery of the missing and in burying the dead appropriately - to name just a few benefits.

To help the public access this crucial info, ARTICLE 19 says the media should provide a channel for official information on emergencies and responses; ensure that complex messages are translated into easy to understand terms; and play a key role in raising awareness and facilitating discussions on disasters and other risks.

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