Visiting our projects: Guidelines for journalists

The media is a very powerful tool through which we can talk about the plight of the people we help and advocate for change. 

MSF does not finance journalists’ trips, but if journalists are travelling to areas where we work, we will do what we can to facilitate visits to our projects.

Briefing and contacts

Each situation and context will be different, but we can normally provide information and a briefing before travelling, and put you in direct contact with our teams on the ground. With more formal arrangements we can organise for journalists to visit our projects for a few days.

Travel and accommodation

Often journalists will be able to travel with MSF teams in whatever mode of transport they are using. However, our priority is to get medical equipment and personnel to the place of need, so this may not always be possible. In some cases you will need to make your own arrangements.

In remote locations where there is no accommodation close by, MSF is sometimes able to host journalists.

Before you go

For any journalist travelling to the field, there are a few things to take into account before you go.

  • As doctors and nurses, we have a privileged relationship with the patients we treat. They place themselves in our care and trust us to try and heal them. It is our responsibility to ensure that they come to no harm in our care. MSF staff on the ground are instructed to intervene if they witness a journalist acting in a way which may harm the interests of the patient.
  • Be aware that an interviewee (especially if they are also photographed) may be harmed in different ways: stigmatisation, security, dignity, privacy/confidentiality.
  • MSF is not generally the “owner” of the medical facilities in which we work – often the structure belongs to the Ministry of Health or local community authority. It is vital that a journalist gets permission from the necessary authorities running the facility before starting to work. In most cases, MSF can help with this.

Consent

  • Journalists must be sure to obtain full, informed consent from any patients or staff interviewed in MSF health facilities. Consent should be discussed in the exact context with the Head of Mission.
  • Consent negotiations must be carried out in the subject’s native language. National medical staff or logistics staff may well be the best people to translate for you, but please be very clear with them that the patient is perfectly entitled to say no.

Security

  • Please be aware that the MSF teams will hope to stay in a location long after you leave. We often have to maintain a relationship with the authorities and other political or military actors in the region. As far as possible, a member of the MSF field team will brief you about local security rules on arrival. Our staff on the ground will be concerned about the implications that your behaviour might have on their security. Please be understanding about their concern and try and cooperate. On occasion, we may ask to have a visible arms-length relationship with you.
  • You will have a more comfortable time working with our field teams if you can agree a few practical matters with them in advance. For example, will you be expected to follow the same security rules, such as respecting curfews?

When your have completed your assignment

Our field teams would appreciate access to the material that results from your visit!