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Home > International Journalism > FAQ

International Journalism
International Journalism FAQ

Q: Do I need a visa to come to the United States if I'm a European journalist and only staying for a few days?

Q: I am an Italian journalist. I would like to know if in your country journalists are allowed to access monuments, museums and other attractions with free or discounted tickets.

Q: I'm a freelancer. What happens if I'm killed or wounded while on assignment overseas?

Q: I'm going into a warzone. Should I bring a gun for self-protection?


Q: Do I need a visa to come to the United States if I'm a European journalist and only staying for a few days?

A: Yes. All journalists visiting the US for reasons related to journalism, even for short stays and from friendly countries, are required to obtain visas before coming here. The SPJ is currently working to extend the Visa Waiver Program, which applies to visiting tourists and businesspeople, to include journalists as well.

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Q: I am an Italian journalist. I work for some newspapers in Italy and also as a freelance. I have planned a trip in U.S. Probably I will collect some material for a future reportage. I would like to know if in your country journalists are allowed to access monuments, museums and other attractions with free or discounted tickets. Obviously I have a Professional Card released by the Italian “Ordine Nazionale dei Giornalisti”, our professional association.

Answer: As a general rule, journalists do not get any special access to tourist destinations, and there is no national journalism accreditation.

There are two exceptions:

1. If you're covering a story that takes place inside an attraction. For example, when the Associated Press sent me out to a local amusement park where some people were injured on a ride, I called the manager, who met me at a rear entrance and took me to see the ride that had the problem. I asked him questions, and talked to a couple of riders, then left to file the story.

2. If you're a travel writer and the owners or managers of a particular attraction want to see a good article in your publication, they may give you complementary tickets. In this case, travel writers contact the owners or managers ahead of time, explain what their publication is (possibly send copies) and explain that they have an assignment to write about their attraction. Usually, a letter of assignment is required, or at least a good track record of writing and publishing similar articles.

In both cases, however, the journalists would be acting as journalists — interviewing people, taking notes, gathering background information, and so on.

There are other ways to get discounts while traveling. Many organizations, such as AAA (American Automobile Association) and the AARP (American Association of Retired Persons) get volume discounts for their members. The Society of Professional Journalists, as well, offers discounts on such services as car rental. See this page for more details.

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Q: I'm a freelancer. What happens if I'm killed or wounded while on assignment overseas?

A: Some countries, such as Lebanon, require the purchase of special insurance before getting accreditation as a journalist. In other cases, local military officials, aid organizations, or your country's embassy may work to get you or your body out and back home. Many freelancers going into conflict situations cross their fingers and hope for the best.

A lightly saner alternative — the sanest, of course, would be to stay out of places where you're likely to get killed or wounded — is to buy emergency medical evacuation and repatriation insurance.

It can be hard to find an insurance company that looks kindly on people going into war zones, but they do exist. Aid organizations, for example, are frequent customers, as are missionaries.

The SPJ does not endorse any particular company's coverage, but here are some places to start:

Reporters Without Borders
Safe Passage International
WorldTravelCenter.com
International Risk Management
Specialty Risk International
International Medical Group

If you or your organization can't afford coverage, you might want to reconsider the trip. Also see our war journalism resources page.

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Q: I'm going into a warzone. Should I bring a gun for self-protection?

A: Absolutely not, says combat photographer Sallie Shatz. If you are stopped and you have a firearm, you've just turned a tenuous situation into a hostile one. "What are you going to do, shoot your way out of the country?" she asks. Carrying firearms can compromise your role as a journalist, or can make it seem as if you are compromised. A better alternative is to carry plenty of paper with official stamps. If the pen is mightier than the sword, then a good stamped document is mightier than a bullet.

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International Journalism
News/Articles
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Fact Sheet on Foreign Press Credentials
 

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