From safety to dodgy polls: some election issues

The national election is almost upon us so what red flags and red herrings should reporters and news editors be looking out for in covering the build-up to the May 7 poll and the day itself?

In the latest instalment of her “Backstory” series, Gill Moodie looks for answers.  

The Institute for the Advancement of Journalism (IAJ) has taken the unusual step of including “Hostile Environments Awareness Training” in its election-preparation courses this year. On the go this week, the course covers among other things  self-defence, avoiding rape and crossfire, weapons identification and even  Paintball role-play.

Is such a course necessary when the elections of the democratic era have been peaceful? On the other hand, we have seen journalists increasingly coming under fire in protests in South Africa in recent years.

Michael Schmidt, executive director of the IAJ, told “Journalists should always be prepared for a seemingly innocuous event they are covering to go pear-shaped and get dangerous: the sports match where tickets sell out early can turn into a stampede or the handing over of a memo to the mayor may turn into a storm of rocks and rubber bullets.


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