Last month, a leading British paper stated that it refused to accept freelance submissions from Syria. The Sunday Times, for which Marie Colvin was on assignment when she was killed last year in Homs, told London-based freelance photographer Rick Findler that it did "not wish to encourage freelancers to take exceptional risks."
"This is not a financial decision. It is a moral one," Graeme Paterson, deputy foreign editor for The Sunday Times, told the U.K.'s Press Gazette. "In the light of what happened to Marie Colvin we have decided we do not want to commission any journalists to cover the situation in Syria… The situation out there is incredibly risky. And we do not want to see any more bloodshed."
Soon after, many of the other papers – including The Times, Guardian, Observer and Independent – each revealed that they have similar policies.
The decision raises old questions of liability and responsibility for freelancers, as well as concerns about access to critical information, especially at a time with collapsing media budgets and fewer foreign bureaus. What forms of support – insurance, protection, training – should freelancers expect, if any, from the media that have commissioned them? Who is responsible if a freelancer is threatened or harmed on the job? Is the public's right to know ultimately at stake?
CBC's Anna Maria Tremonti discusses the implications with Findler, as well as Bruno Stevens, a freelance photojournalist, Romayne Smith Fullerton, a teacher in the Faculty of Information and Media Studies at the University of Western Ontario in Canada, and Tony Burman, the former head of Al Jazeera English and CBC News.
Listen to them debate here on CBC's current affairs programme The Current (in English, starting at 02:00).
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