2.1.2. Dealing with threats and intimidation

2.1.2. Dealing with threats and intimidation

If your ‘culprit’ is a powerful and dangerous figure, you may want to avoid a personal confrontation and opt for sending questions to his office instead. This lets you avoid stepping foot in their ‘territory’ or revealing your face to their allies or backers. This type of interview will not be as colourful as a face-to-face interview, but at the very least, you live another day to write the story.

Find out what support or protection your publication or organisation can offer you. If you are a freelancer, ensure that you set up some support structures of your own.

Asking a powerful person or entity for comment on a grave issue can lead to legal, as well as physical, threats. Legal threats may be designed to make your editor drop the story, which he may well do. But if your facts are sound, try convincing your editor that these individuals often do not launch the defamation suits they threaten. One of the biggest reasons is that a court case could carve out a privileged context where you are free to reprint the very evidence they are trying to conceal. If you are dealing with individuals who operate in intimidation, prosecution or with any other kind of threats, look to these organisations for help: ‘Committee to Protect Journalists’ or ‘Reporters Without Borders’.

More information available at: www.cpj.org/about or rsf.org/en.

Another overview about organisations helping journalists in danger can be accessed at: gijn.org/2014/07/14/new-resource-guide-emergency-assistance.

After evaluating the selected sources and where to meet them, it is time to conduct the actual interview. The next chapter will discuss how to plan interview questions, how to behave during the interview, and elaborate on crucial rules for success.