by William J. Holstein
As traditional Western news organizations have downsized or disappeared, the burden of covering some of the world’s toughest stories has fallen to freelancers, who either arrive from other countries or who are citizens of the country they are covering. Reporting these stories usually means working with drivers, fixers or translators. But very few of the people involved in this coverage have been insured, which magnifies the risks they must take. In most cases, they’ve simply been on their own.
That’s changing as of the first quarter of 2020. The ACOS Alliance, the coalition that came together following the murders of James Foley and Steven Sotloff, is working with insurers and stakeholders to facilitate access to affordable insurance for all journalists. The alliance is helping launch ground-breaking insurance options that benefit freelancers and local journalists in particular, and at a discount.
Some of the options the alliance has worked on provide insurance to media workers regardless of their nationality or residence. “Being insured means being prepared,” said Executive Director Elisabet Cantenys. “Everyone should have access to insurance.” In some cases, the Alliance has collaborated with insurance administrators to create new schemes in response to current needs. In other instances, ACOS and the insurance administrator have agreed to a discount. The aim is always the same: promote the use of insurance and facilitate access.
Here are two options the alliance is helping to promote as part of this initiative. Check the ACOS Alliance website for more details, including a discount code.
Insurance for Journalists: This plan covers journalists travelling to any country in the world, including conflict zones, being embedded and even traveling in a military vehicle or helicopter.
The insurance coverage is available by the week and includes: accidental death and disablement, sickness and accident medical expenses subject to a $250 or € 250 deductible per claim, and emergency medical evacuation from the point of an incident to an appropriate care facility and repatriation home when necessary.
Additional coverage can be purchased while on an assignment if extended coverage is required or if a journalist is travelling to an even higher risk-rated zone.
Insurance for Local Media: News organizations, production companies, commissioning NGOs and individual journalists can insure their fixers, local producers, translators, and other media workers on the ground. This policy covers individuals from any nationality anywhere in the world including when they are working in their country of residence.
The insurance coverage is by the day and includes: accidental death, accidental medical expenses subject to a $250 deductible, emergency accident medical evacuation from point of an incident to an appropriate care facility. ACOS Alliance signatories can benefit from a discount.
The ACOS alliance is helping promote two other insurance initiatives:
In partnership with Escapade Travel Insurance, Reporters Without Borders provides a complete health insurance and repatriation for journalists and reporters travelling on assignment to any country, war zones included. RWB membership is mandatory. To become a RWB member, visit rsf.org/en/insurance-0. This program has been available since 2009 and several hundred journalists have used it. U.S.-based reporters are unfortunately not covered.
Also, the International Federation of Journalists also offers insurance through its partnership with a group known as Battleface. This insurance offers on-the-ground emergency support and equipment coverage and is accessible via a tech-based platform that fits in your pocket. That scheme is limited to IFJ members. For more information, go to ifj.org.
The OPC, which has contributed to ACOS freelancer training sessions in Nairobi and Beirut, plans to sponsor an event in the New Year to build awareness about the new insurance programs.