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Respecting human rights in the use of media support workers for documentary making, news and sports

In 2021, the Forum commissioned research into human rights risks related to documentary making, news and sports, which led to two reports.


This report looks at the human rights risks associated with the third-party support needed to make and broadcast news, sports and documentaries.


The research finds that:

  • Fixers, local crew, drivers, translators and security personnel take on risks to their personal safety and privacy, as well as their physical and mental health

  • Those working in hotels and venues may be at particular risk of extreme exploitation

  • Such human rights risks are often not sufficiently addressed by broadcaster practices and can also increase risks to their own teams

  • Media support workers are usually freelancers, meaning they have limited employment rights and little recourse if clients refuse to pay

  • Unless the broadcaster provides it, they may have no access to training, insurance, and safety equipment, or any of the other usual mitigations broadcasters put in place for their own employees

  • Media support workers are sometimes mistreated by the teams they work with, experiencing a hierarchical ‘us’ and ‘them’ mentality, which can progress to bullying

  • In the worst cases, their lives are seen as less valuable than the international crew or in some way expendable

  • Media support workers reported problems of cultural insensitivity on behalf of international teams, which can lead to misrepresentation of people and stories and increased safety risks to themselves or others

  • The uneven power relationships mean that media support workers can feel under pressure to take risks and fear raising concerns

  • Cash is sometimes used to pay media support workers or to fund their activities, increasing the risk of bribery and unethical practices and setting precedents that then negatively affect teams that follow

This report was developed in parallel with a second report entitled “Respecting human rights in the security practices of broadcasters for documentary making, news and sports”. It draws on the same interviews, deep-dive assessments, and other sources.

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