Cilla Benkö: The safety of our employees is a top priority

With a joint letter of intent, Sweden's leading media companies have agreed on common safety measures for employees and freelancers sent to high risk areas.
   Cilla Benkö, Director General of Swedish Radio, signed the letter.


On the morning of March 11, 2014, the Swedish journalist Nils Horner was shot in Kabul, Afghanistan, when reporting on the upcoming presidential election. A tragic event that influenced not only Swedish Radio but all Swedish media companies with employees in high risk areas.

To what areas of the world can we send our employees? Are the safety measures we offer adequate? After what happened to Nils Horner, I invited other Swedish media companies to discuss these issues. A similar meeting was initiated by the Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter when the photojournalist Paul Hansen was shot and injured.

These two meetings were the start of what would result in a joint letter of intent concerning the safety of employees and freelancers sent to high risk areas. Other Swedish media companies that have signed the letter of intent are Aftonbladet, Dagens industri, Dagens Nyheter, Expressen, Svenska Dagbladet, Swedish Television and TV4.

When I speak publicly about these matters, I often mention that we should be grateful for having co-workers, journalists and photographers that are willing to risk their personal security to be able to tell us stories from all over the world. They often do this in countries where corrupt regimes only want their side of the story to be told and where independent journalists are seen as a threat.

Swedish Radio has the largest network of correspondents in the Nordic region. It is our responsibility to provide our employees with the best possible conditions to perform their duties. The fact that we have agreed on a joint declaration of intent, together with other leading Swedish media companies, sends a clear message that we share a common view and take the safety of our employees seriously. We will also continue to work together on these issues going forward.

The joint letter of intent includes a number of requirements, e.g.: 

  • Each trip to a high risk area is preceded by a transparent risk analysis
  • Every employee who is sent to a high risk area must have undergone a qualified safety course, including medical first aid training
  • Every employee sent to a high risk area must carry relevant and updated field emergency medical equipment and appropriate protective equipment
  • In cases where companies send contracted freelance journalists or photographers to high risk destinations, the media companies shall take the same responsibility for them, and have the same demands for them, as for full time employees