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News Organizations Promote Safety Guidelines for Freelancers

FILE - James Foley, pictured in May 2011, was beheaded by Islamic militants last year; he was one of 61 journalists killed in 2014, according to data from the Committee to Protect Journalists.

More than two dozen news organizations and advocacy groups have agreed to back international safety standards for freelancers in the wake of kidnappings and killings of journalists around the world.

The document calls for news organizations that employ full-time staffers and freelance journalists "to actively join in a shared commitment to safety and a new spirit of collegiality and concern.''

The guidelines and practices released Thursday at Columbia University's Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma were drafted by an international group of freelancers, foreign correspondents, news executives and advocates.

The signers include Reuters, the Associated Press, Bloomberg, the BBC, the Committee to Protect Journalists and USA Today.

Bruce Shapiro, executive director of the Dart Center, said in a statement, "The role of freelancers in reporting conflict and crisis around the world has grown in significance even as threats rise. The news companies, freelance organizations and advocacy groups who came together to support the guidelines all understand that we are in a crisis which demands action."

The world has grown increasingly hostile to journalists covering wars and dangerous places. At the same, many news organizations, which are trimming costs, rely on freelancers for stories.

According to data from the CPJ, 61 journalists were killed last year, including 13 freelancers. Eight of the freelancers were murdered, including James Foley and Steven Sotloff, who were beheaded.

The safety standards include first aid and hostile-environment training, securing medical insurance for conflict zones, and having appropriate equipment such as helmets and vests when on assignment.

The organizations backing the standards said they mark ''the first step in a long-term campaign" to get other media companies and journalists to adopt the guidelines.

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