Bearing witness and speaking out about the humanitarian situation in the places where our medical teams work is core to MSF’s mandate. The media is a very powerful tool through which we can talk about the plight of the people we help and advocate for change.
MSF and journalists
MSF works with journalists in a variety of different ways and each situation and context will be different.With most requests, we can provide information before travelling, give you a briefing and put you in direct contact with our teams on the ground.
Often journalists will be able to travel with the MSF teams in whatever mode of transport they are using.
However, our priority is to get medical equipment and personnel to the place of need, so this may not always be possible. In some cases, you will need to make your own arrangements.
Please contact our Media Manager who can give you more information on MSF’s work and visiting our projects.
Before you go
For any journalist travelling to the field, there are a few things to take into account before you go (if you are taking photographs, please click here to see Photographer Guidelines).
As doctors and nurses, we have a privileged relationship with the patients we treat. They put themselves in our care and trust us to try and heal them. It is our responsibility to ensure that they come to no harm in our care. MSF staff on the ground have been told to intervene if they witness a journalist acting in a way which may harm the interests of the patient.
Be aware that an interviewee (especially if they are also photographed) may be harmed in different ways: stigmatisation, security, dignity, privacy/confidentiality. Journalists must be sure to obtain full, informed consent from any patients or staff interviewed in MSF health facilities.
MSF is not generally the “owner” of the medical facilities in which we work – often the structure belongs to the Ministry of Health or local community authority. It is vital that a journalist gets permission from the necessary authorities running the facility before starting to work.
Journalists must be sure to obtain full, informed consent from any patients or staff interviewed in MSF health facilities. Consent should be discussed in the exact context with the Head of Mission.
Consent negotiations must be carried out in the subject’s native language. National medical staff, (unarmed) guards or logistics staff may well be the best people to translate for you, but please be very clear with them that the patient is perfectly entitled to say no.
Please be aware that the MSF teams will hope to stay in a location long after you leave. We often have to maintain a relationship with the authorities and other stakeholders in any particular region. Ideally, before you start working in the field, a member of the MSF field team will brief you about local security rules. MSF staff on the ground will be concerned about the implications that your behaviour might have on their security. Please be understanding about their concern and try and cooperate. On occasion, we may ask to have a visible arms-length relationship with you.
You will have a more comfortable time working with MSF field teams if you can agree with a few practical matters with them in advance.
Have more questions? Please feel free to contact our Media Manager