Since 1993 more than 300 journalists have been trained by the National Centre of Commando Training in France, which prepares them for the realities of war. Copyright SIRPA Terre.
Buried deep within the fine print of most professional and travel insurance, one particular sentence among the terms and conditions is worth investigation, especially if you regularly undertake travel or reportage assignments to some of the world’s less desirable locations.
The wording usually goes along the lines of, “This policy does not cover travel to areas where the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has advised against "all travel’,” but it’s also worth bearing in mind that many insurance policies won’t cover countries where only a small region is deemed risky.
So, while you wouldn’t be surprised to find Afghanistan and Iraq at the top of the government’s list of “hazardous” destinations, you might not be aware the list also includes all or part of Algeria, Venezuela, Ivory Coast, Georgia, Thailand, Mali, Haiti, Israel, Albania, most of the Russian Federation and even Kenya and India.
Some organisations, such as Reporters Without Borders, which lobbies to protect press freedom around the world, have stepped in with their own insurance deals. “Too many freelance journalists still set off on reporting trips abroad without taking out proper insurance,” says the Paris-based organisation. “Such risky behaviour is due to the lack of information, high premiums and the complicated formalities often required.”
It has an ongoing deal with a series of insurance contractors to offer policies that cover anything from illness or repatriation to the ultimate risk of death in one of the world’s numerous conflict zones. Two policies are available, with the most complete one covering embedded photographers.
The organisation also recommends members take part in special training sessions run by the army. In France, for example, the National Centre for Commando Training offers a four-day session twice a year. Journalists are trained on how to react under fire, how to report from the front line or how to defend themselves.
Of course, only a minority of photographers choose to go to such perilous destinations but, says the insurance industry, many others are ignoring the risk of accident or theft of kit when they go abroad, with more than three million UK nationals travelling overseas each year without any form of insurance whatsoever.
A number of companies offer tailor-made policies that cover kit while on assignment overseas, including Photoshield, the photographic division of Winsover Howden Insurance Brokers, which offers 60-day European cover and a 45-day worldwide cover as part of its standard policy.
“This covers everything from accidental damage to theft,” says Steve Beveridge, who stresses the need to apply common sense. “Each place is different. You need to keep your eye out for thieves,” he says, revealing that the latest technique in Barcelona is for thieves to throw water at photographers in a bid to distract them while a second pickpocket goes for their cameras.
And it’s not just your cameras that should be protected.
“We get a lot of claims from photographers who forgot to take out their memory cards,” says Beveridge. “When their kit goes missing on a plane, so do their images.”
Many photographers opt to take advantage of the policies offered by their representative organisations. The MPA has a deal with Photoshield, for example, while the BPPA works in partnership with Aaduki Multimedia, and the AOP is affiliated with Towergate Camerasure.
But you should take care with these options, as often the standard package doesn’t fit an individual photographer’s requirements. Insurance brokers can, in most cases, offer tailor-made policies that will cover all needs.
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