When a massive truck bomb exploded in rush hour in central Kabul Wednesday morning, Reuters journalists rushed to the scene to find bloody victims staggering toward them and smoke billowing from the blast site.
Their mission was clear: transmit photos, video and details to the world as quickly as possible.
That meant waiting.
“First, I had to make sure there wasn’t going to be any kind of follow-up attack, which is something that has often happened in the past,” said photographer Omar Sobhani, whose picture of a man stretched out before the carnage became one of the defining images of the attack that killed 80 people and wounded 460.
“Once it looked clear, I went towards the blast site,” Sobhani added.
The veteran photographer’s hesitation is taught in Reuters training given to any journalist assigned to cover conflict, war or danger across the world. Since 2008, some 2,500 journalists have attended Hostile Environment Training where they have learned — among other things — that militant groups often place a second bomb to catch emergency workers, security forces and journalists as they rush to respond to explosions.
Hostile environment courses, where our journalists learn how to stop catastrophic bleeding, study crowd dynamics and are even subjected to a simulated kidnapping, are important tools in our mission to supply reliable news and information in the nearly 200 countries that we operate in.
“We aren’t just trying to teach people how to survive a life-threatening moment because we hope they’ll be able to avoid getting into one in the first place,” says Mike Christie, general manager global logistics and security at Reuters.
Training journalists to cover danger is not just about living up to the principle that no story is worth dying for. Keeping journalists safe is key to getting the story.
In Mogadishu recently, videographer Abdirahman Hussein and photographer Feisal Omar transmitted video and photographs from the scene of a blast at the Dayah hotel, where an Islamist militant rammed a car bomb through the gates, killing 28 people.
Hussein and Omar put their training into place, hanging back in the immediate aftermath of the explosion. When a second bomb went off 15 minutes later, they were able to rush to the scene to do their jobs and tell the world.