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Pulitzer Center Update September 29, 2015

Five-day Hostile Environment Training for Freelance Journalists


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Thomson Reuters will cover the costs of up to fourteen freelance journalists attending a five-day Hostile Environment Training course run by Hawthorne Proactive from Nov. 22-27, 2015 in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

Hawthorne Proactive is a Northern Ireland-based security firm that runs courses for journalists operating in difficult areas of the world. Hawthorne's instructors have extensive operational experience in places like Colombia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya and Syria.

Thomson Reuters will cover costs of training, course materials, accommodations, food and non-alcoholic beverages for the duration of the course for the selected applicants. Applicants are responsible for their own travel to and from Belfast. The Pulitzer Center has agreed to cover the cost of transport for a limited number of applicants who can demonstrate a clear financial need.

Applications should be submitted via email to the Pulitzer Center ([email protected]), with "Hostile Environment Training" in the subject line. The deadline for submissions is Oct. 15.

Applications should include:

  • a cover letter describing how and why the training would be beneficial;
  • a CV;
  • links to two work samples;
  • contact info for three references.

Applicants interested in the additional travel support from the Pulitzer Center should state so in the cover letter, and include a description of why they need this support.

The Pulitzer Center will review all applications and select up to 14 participants, as well as support travel for a limited number of applicants who demonstrate financial need. Journalists selected for the training will be notified by Oct. 22.

The Course:

Hawthorne Proactive is a Northern Ireland-based security firm that runs courses for journalists operating in difficult areas of the world. Hawthorne's instructors have extensive operational experience in places like Colombia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya and Syria.

Topics included on the course are:

Situation awareness

  • What is Situation Awareness? The proper state of mind
  • Levels of awareness (White – Yellow – Red)
  • Pre-deployment risk assessment
  • Dynamic risk assessment
  • Basic safety
  • Driving
  • Checkpoints
  • Car parks and parking
  • Local drivers
  • Taxis and other transport
  • Walking
  • ATM safety
  • Shopping
  • Planning for emergencies
  • Hotel Security
  • Bombings, the primary threat
  • Armed assault
  • Security precautions you can take
  • An exit strategy

Personal security - Body armor - Grab Bag

  • Essential items
  • Optional items
  • Introduction to Body armor – fit etc.

First Aid

  • PowerPoint explanation of, CABCD
  • (Catastrophic bleeding, airway, breathing, circulation, disability to include GSW, Burns)
  • Practical catastrophic bleeding control
  • Practical airway opening

Hostage and Rescue

  • Kidnap variations
  • What to expect if kidnapped
  • Suggested hostage behaviors
  • Abduction
  • Captivity
  • Release
  • What to expect in a rescue attempt
  • Suggested behavior during Police Interrogation

Practical exercise on kidnap

  • Experiential learning
  • Feel what it's like to be a hostage
  • Full debrief and discussion of feeling and emotions

Conflict resolution

  • De-escalating a situation (defusing conflict)
  • Understanding your responses (emotional – rational)
  • Communication skills
  • Recognizing signs of conflict (the warning signs)
  • Triggers to aggression
  • Blocks to communication
  • Avoiding conflict (dynamic risk assessment)
  • Understanding the Attitude and Behavior Cycle

Conflict resolution scenario

  • Experiential learning through practical role play

Defensive tactics

  • Physical Conflict resolution (defensive tactics)
  • Mental preparation (shock of attack)
  • Personal space
  • Stance
  • Communication
  • Blocking an attack
  • Various strikes and pressure points (buying time to break contact and move away)
  • Dealing with aggressive hand shakes
  • Escaping wrist grabs
  • Assisting a colleague being held
  • Defense from grabs/gropes (groin, breast etc.)
  • Escaping chokes and headlocks
  • Defensive action against sharp edged weapons
  • Guard position on the ground
  • Defense from a kick whilst on the ground
  • Getting up quickly and safely from the ground


  • How surveillance works
  • Stakeout and trigger
  • The follow
  • The housing
  • Passive surveillance detection
  • Anti-surveillance maneuvers

Crowds and Demonstrations and Protests

  • Prior preparation and planning
  • Understanding crowd dynamics and characteristics (the warning signs)
  • Riots and police tactics
  • Petrol bombs – immediate action drills
  • Video on police Riot tactics and training

CS gas, Pepper Spray, Police use of Incapacitants & less-than-lethal weapons – practical demo

  • Understanding various Incapacitants and how they work
  • Protecting yourself (prior preparation)
  • Remedies for exposure
  • Decontamination
  • Petrol bomb
  • Less lethal weapons and how the work
  • Water cannon

First Aid

  • Practical breathing assessment and 3-sided dressing
  • Practical CPR on manikin
  • Practical basic splinting
  • First aid question and answer session

Terrorist tactics, IED's, Booby Traps & Gunfire
Types of IED'S

  • Spotting a booby trap
  • Immediate action drills

Defensive Tactics

  • Practice session

Vehicle Search Practical lesson

  • How and when to search a vehicle

Reaction to Ambush – Use of cover - practical exercise

  • Pre-deployment planning
  • Risk assessment
  • Equipment
  • Reaction to ambush
  • Use of cover
  • Post-incident procedure

Thomson Reuters is not responsible for the selection of freelance attendees. Thomson Reuters and the Pulitzer Center are not responsible for the content of the five-day Hostile Environment Training course. Thomson Reuters role is limited to providing funding for this opportunity for freelance journalists to learn skills that will help them operate more safely in dangerous locations.

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