Journalism charity doubles funding for freelance safety

LONDON, ON, May 15, 2014 /CNW/ - The Forum Freelance Fund is ready to double the number of conflict training bursaries it will award to Canadian freelance journalists this year in response to increased risks to their safety.

"The death of Ali Moustafa, a twenty-nine-year-old Canadian freelance photographer, in Aleppo, Syria in March was another terrible reminder that our industry is increasingly relying on freelancers while the risks to them are mounting as never before," said Cliff Lonsdale, president of the Canadian Journalism Forum on Violence and Trauma.

The Forum is allocating extra resources this year to the fund, which provides access to approved hazardous environment training courses for Canadian freelancers and freelancers of other nationalities who file to Canadian media.

"These are funds we raised for general purposes," Lonsdale said. "We're going to add them to the freelance fund because helping to train three or four of the most urgent cases each year just isn't enough."

The Forum Freelance Fund (FFF) is sponsored by CBC News and supported by Radio-Canada and Canada News Wire, as well as by individual donations.  It has awarded 9 bursaries of up to $2,500 each in the first three years of its operation.

"We've helped some amazingly brave and talented people - mostly quite young - but there are so many more out there," Lonsdale added. "All Canadian media organizations should be interested in helping to mitigate the risks being taken on their behalf by freelancers in dangerous places around the world. The Forum Freelance Fund provides an opportunity to do that in a way even the most hard-pressed employers can afford. This is no time to be narrowly competitive, or whatever else makes the news organizations using freelancers hold back. If we act together, we can make a real difference."

The FFF has also brought its 2014 bursary competition forward.  Entries are open now and will close at the end of June.  Full application details are available on the Forum's new website: . Applications can now be made online. They close on June 30, 2014. Bringing the competition forward by about six weeks gives winners longer to make their course arrangements.

For the third year, the FFF is co-operating with UK-based Rory Peck Trust (RPT), a charity dedicated to helping freelance journalists worldwide. The arrangement gives RPT a seat on FFF's independent jury and has put some recent FFF applicants in line for additional bursaries.

The 2013 winners of Forum Freelance Fund bursaries, chosen by an independent panel, were:

  • Iris Makler, who freelances from Jerusalem for CBC News and others, and was one of the first correspondents to enter Afghanistan after 9/11.
  • Varérian Mazataud, a Montreal-based photojournalist who has most recently been covering the outpouring of refugees into the countries surrounding Syria.
  • Daniel Otis, a University of Toronto and UBC graduate who has been filing from Cambodia and Myanmar for the Globe & Mail , the Toronto Star and others for more than two years, without any formal journalism training.

Two of last year's winners opted for a special conflict reporting course for freelancers and others held each October at the Columbia Journalism School in New York, and one attended a commercial safety training course in the UK.

SOURCE: Canadian Journalism Forum on Violence and Trauma

For further information:

Jane Hawkes, Executive Producer, Canadian Journalism Forum on Violence and Trauma.  (519) 473-6434

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