The issue of journalists’ physical protection while covering military operations, protest demonstrations, and armed attacks became topical particularly during the 2016 April War.
Many journalists who left for border areas didn’t have protective gear and found themselves in life-threatening situations.
The culture of wearing bulletproof vests and helmets designed specially for journalists hasn’t yet developed in Armenia. Many news outlets don’t have the necessary financial resources to purchase such kits.
The Media Initiatives Center [also responsible for this site] with the support of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) is implementing the program Support for Journalists in Conflict, within the scope of which it became possible to acquire bulletproof vests and helmets for journalists.
Contributing to the task of providing Armenian journalists with protective outfits was Montreal-based journalist Levon Sevunts. After the April War, he organized a crowdfunding campaign, so people can become “guardian angels for reporters who risk their lives to bring you news from the frontlines.”
Levon Sevunts transferred the money he fundraised to the Media Initiatives Center and helped to increase the budget for this special equipment. As a result, the Media Initiatives Center was able to purchase for journalists 12 bulletproof vests and 12 helmets (10 vests and 11 helmets with NED’s support; 2 vests and 1 helmet with the funds raised through the crowdfunding campaign).
The organization ordered the protective gear (black in colour with the word “PRESS” on it) from the Armenian-Polish company Lubawa.
Lubawa Armenia Board President Jaroslaw Ruch recently introduced the safety gear to a group of journalists participating in a class at Media Initiatives Center. There were many opinions and responses after testing the gear. Below are answers to common questions asked.
How to wear it?
The outfit weighs about 10 kg if two rigid inserts (each weighing 3 kg) are included in the front and back of the vest. If desired, the inserts can be removed, and the vest will be lighter (about 4 kg) and better suited for long-term use.
It is advised to wear the vest with the rigid inserts for about three hours at a time, then remove them, and after resting, again wear them for three or two hours.
Of course a lot depends on the threats and dangers that will presumably accompany journalists and camera operators working in conflict areas.
In which situations does the bulletproof vest help?
The bulletproof vest with rigid inserts makes protection possible from shots from Kalashnikov rifles and relatively higher caliber weapons.
And without the rigid inserts, the vest protects the wearer from shards and shots from Makarov types of pistols.
In general, the vest is designed for chest protection (it’s important to take into account the weapon used, target angle, and other details).
While the helmet, according to experts, should be worn almost always when there’s a need to work not only in conflict zones, but also during natural disasters or even peaceful demonstrations, since the presence of people, police officers, and armed groups is already risky for journalists.
The vest can be adjusted to the user’s body with the Velcro shoulder straps. The inside belt increases the vest’s proper fit and makes balanced distribution of weight possible. As a result, pressure on the shoulders lessens, extending to the waist.
Assistance is needed to put on or take off the vest. It is advised not to attempt to do so unaided.
When are the bulletproof vest and helmet needed?
During armed attacks, protest demonstrations, military operations… By and large, in any situation where self-defense is necessary.
Journalists carrying out their professional duties can use the protective gear in not only Armenia, but also conflict zones in the region.
Terms of procurement
The outfit is provided free of charge to all journalists who need it.
Simply contact the Media Initiatives Center, sign a contract, and become familiar with the rules of use.
For any questions, please contact Mane Grigoryan by phone at +374 (10) 583620 or by email at [email protected].
Photos by Hakob Hovhannisyan