Inauguration Day reporting: 10 safety tips

When the U.S. Capitol was under siege on Jan. 6, at least nine journalists were physically attacked as well. Last week, the FBI issued a warning that armed protestors could infiltrate state capitols and Washington, D.C., in the lead-up to Inauguration Day. 

As journalists prepare to cover this week’s events across the country, we’ve rounded up safety tips for you to use.

  • Prepare an escape route: Look at maps of the physical area ahead of time and plan an escape route in advance. 
  • Plan your outfit: The Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma suggests wearing non-flammable clothing and shoes that will allow you to move quickly, a helmet, flak jacket for rubber bullets, ballistic goggles and a respirator mask. (Also avoid wearing contact lenses in case of tear gas.) 
  • Wear ID: Carry your credentials at all times. Write the name of your lawyer and editor in permanent marker on your arm. And buddy up with another journalist.
  • Pack your go-bag: In addition to a fully-charged phone, the Dart Center says to bring a back-up phone. You should also be prepared with water, food and a flashlight. 
  • Check your tech: Before you go, Election SOS recommends updating your password and adding two-factor authentication; using encrypted messaging apps for communication; disabling location services and FaceID or other biometrics; and leaving your phone locked as much as you can. 
  • Have a basic knowledge of first-aid: Familiarize yourself with the effects of tear gas, which can burn your eyes and cause skin irritation for an hour. If you come into contact with tear gas, face the wind and rinse your eyes and clothes with cold water as soon as possible. 
  • Understand your legal rights: This guide from the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press details your rights at a protest, guidance for protecting your equipment and tips for avoiding arrest during coverage.
  • Learn how ethical practices are evolving in light of the increased threats to journalists: Poynter shares advice for when and how to identify yourself during protest coverage, how to gather images safely and considerations for freelancers, editors and journalists of color. 
  • If something should happen to you in the field, report the incident as soon as you can to the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker.
  • Looking for more guidance? The International Journalists’ Network has bookmarked additional resources for staying safe in the field.

Remember that your life is more important than the story, so prioritize your safety above all.

We created these safety cards for you to use in the field. Click here to download a PDF to your phone and print a copy for your wallet.

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