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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

The Journalists' Version Of Facing Friendly Fire

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Journalism is becoming an increasingly dangerous profession, but the state is doing its part to try to help. The Defense and Foreign ministries and the Federal Press and Mass Media Agency have begun a second round of security training for journalism students. The program, titled "Bastion," is more complicated this time: Journalists will not only learn how to avoid stepping on mines and being taken hostage, but also how to keep from getting beaten up at protests.

The first graduates of the courses were newspaper and television journalists whom their editors planned to send to report from dangerous locations. Providing objective and professional reports from these hot spots depends on journalists' ability to stay alive and talk to people on the ground, as well as on cooperation and protection from the military and police . Thus, NATO also offers courses of this type and a number of Western media outlets will not allow reporters to work these dangerous assignments if they haven't completed personal security courses. To work in conflict zones, Russian journalists don't even need to leave the country. Russia is a world leader in attempts on the lives and freedom of journalists. According to the International Federation of Journalists, the 42 journalists killed or abducted in the last 15 years inside the country trails only the figure of 78 in Iraq and 60 in Algeria.

Of late, Russian journalists increasingly fall victim to overzealousness on the part of law enforcement agencies. According to the Center for Journalism in Extreme Circumstances, 12 journalists were beaten up during the Dissenters' March in St. Petersburg in March and another 10 combined at marches inMoscow and Nizhny Novgorod. The need for the courses is real, and the courses are like a warning from the state that there is more danger to come from its side.

Journalists are being warned to wear bright vests and protective headgear while covering these events and to stay at official control centers or in areas set aside for the media. They are told they should get off to the side and "not provoke police officers to get a good photo or news report."

But journalists at the Dissenters' March in St. Petersburg were already wearing the special vests. They didn't help. Perhaps OMON crackdowns should be treated as spontaneous disasters. All joking aside, however, "protest safety" is now becoming the reason cited for many of the latest restrictions on freedom of assembly, with City Hall taking the job of issuing permits over from administrative districts and the Public Chamber proposing that they only be allowed in certain areas away from city centers.

This appeared as an editorial in Vedomosti.