If you’re travelling overseas as a journalist, it’s important to remember that the risks may be different for you.
Before you go
It's your responsibility to understand the risks of travel and plan for your safety.
- Read the travel advice for the destinations you plan to visit. Subscribe for updates.
- Do a thorough risk assessment before committing to travel.
- Find out what visas, permits and credentials you may need.
- Think about your cyber safety.
- Understand the increased risks when travelling to dangerous locations.
Risks to consider
Read the travel advice for your destination thoroughly. If the advice level is 4, we advise against all travel, if the advice level is 3, our advice is that you reconsider your need to travel. If despite our advice you travel to a higher-risk destination, we recommend you take extra precautions.
Conduct a detailed risk assessment of your destination in consultation with your local contacts, your publisher, and its security advisers. Also consider contacting local foreign correspondent organisations if appropriate. It's important to understand the risks you might face and have a plan if things go wrong. The Rory Peck Trust provides guides and templates for risk-assessing potential assignments.
When assessing your destination, carefully consider:
- local press freedom and the attitude towards journalism. The World Press Freedom Index gives a detailed country-by-country analysis of the risks journalists may face.
- local laws and culture. Understand what laws may affect where you can go, what you can photograph, what you can say, and who you can talk to. Also be aware of laws and attitudes towards women, LGBTI and people of a specific ethnic or cultural background.
- the political and security situation. Journalists may be targeted to suppress information during conflict or unrest.
- Your previous coverage of the country or its government, particularly anything that could be seen as derogatory or critical of the current government or that praised a previous government or the opposition.
- the risk of
- arbitrary arrest or detention
- espionage and cyber crime
- your previous travel or links to third countries that may be a source of suspicion for the authorities in your destination.
- dual nationality. If you’re a dual national this can impact how and when we can help you overseas. If you’re in your other country of citizenship, the government there may restrict what consular services we can provide.
- any health risks you might face
- the physical dangers you might face, particularly if covering conflict or a natural disaster
- the psychological risks and your ability to cope with traumatic events.
If you’re travelling to a destination with political or social unrest, be sensitive to any risks you may create for locals by interviewing them.
Local authorities have detained travelling journalists, including Australians, under false accusation of serious crimes. Take the risks you face seriously.
While the Australian government will do everything it can to help you if you need consular assistance, we won’t be able to help any local colleagues or contacts you’re working with if they’re not Australian citizens.
Visas, permits and credentials
Make sure you have the correct credentials, permits and registrations. Research entry rules and apply for the visas you may need at your destination. Many have a specific visa category for media and journalists.
Find out if:
- you need official press credentials, permits or accreditations. You may have to register with local authorities or a local press organisation before entering the country. If you violate local laws, you may be refused access to the country, deported or imprisoned - even if you have the proper entry visa.
- there are specific rules about importing and using electronics and protective equipment. Cameras, satellite phones, body armour and other equipment may be restricted or need authorisation.
You may need a permit to photograph or film people or facilities. Certain areas or people may be prohibited. Some prohibited areas may not be marked clearly, so confirm with local contacts. If you photograph or film restricted content, your equipment could be confiscated. You could be detained or arrested.
Local authorities may need to authorise security equipment such as protective vests, helmets, gas masks and satellite phones. If not authorised, they may be taken from you at the border.
Having your digital information compromised could put you, your contacts and your colleagues at risk.
It's important to think about:
- the information you're responsible for and what could happen if it falls into the wrong hands
- your online footprint and the information about you available to others
- the potential motivation of anyone who goes out of their way to connect with you.
Assume that your devices will be scrutinised when crossing international borders. Information found on personal devices during a police search has been used against Australian travellers in the past, including personal emails and search history.
You may also be a target for cyber espionage.
Before you travel
- Do a stocktake of your public online presence, including social media. Lock down accounts or remove anything that may compromise your safety while overseas.
- Audit information stored on devices you're taking with you, including personal documents, emails and photos. Save anything you don't need to take on a different device and leave it at home.
While you're away
- Avoid accessing your accounts on a public computer, for example, at an internet café or library. Don’t use free public wifi.
- Use your own charging cables and plugs.
- Use a data blocker when charging your device.
- Be careful who you connect with on social media.
- Log out of your accounts after you use them.
- If legal in your destination, use encrypted messaging apps to communicate. Look for apps that offer end-to-end encryption.
- Don't leave your devices unattended, including charging cables. Even in hotel safes.
- Regularly back up data on your devices to an encrypted hard drive or cloud service. Clear sensitive information off your devices after backing up.
Read our full advice on cyber security while travelling.
Reporting in dangerous locations
Our advice is do not travel to level 4 destinations. If you choose to travel despite our advice, take all necessary steps to ensure your safety. The Australian Government is limited in the help it can provide if you get into trouble in a level 4 destination.
- Complete hostile environment awareness training (HEAT) if you plan to report in a conflict zone, unstable country or natural disaster area.
- Consider what personal protective equipment (PPE) you might need. Be aware that camouflage gear and military-style clothing may cause you to be mistaken for a combatant. Clearly mark yourself as media.
- Put a communications plan in place in case things go wrong. Have a contingency plan to get out of the country quickly.
The Committee to Protect Journalists offers advice on physical safety during war reporting.