On the Front Lines

With all the criticism that occurs around the media it’s easy for people to overlook the fact that many journalists are putting their lives on the line each and every day to report the news. Today our group met with Omer Berberoglu from Reuters News in Istanbul. Working as a producer and camera operator for several years, Berberoglu has experienced what it’s like reporting in a war zone. He showed and explained to us the various protective gear that journalists wear when working in these dangerous conditions.

This equipment is not worn all the time when working in war zones, but mainly when on the front lines under the most dangerous circumstances. It takes courage to be able to report in war zones, and Beberoglu said you have to do a cost-analysis on whether or not risking your life is worth spreading the information. While this equipment is somewhat reassuring, Berberoglu said it’s not a 100% guarantee. “Rarely you get killed by bullets, you actually get killed by bombs, and if you’re bombed then you’re done. These (items) are protector vitals, it saves you some time until you’re near a proper medical station.” Berberoglu also talked about how these experiences open your eyes to a whole new reality of what it means to feel secure.

Hardened hat: This is used mainly during riots and protests to protect the head from rocks and coins being thrown.

Gas mask: There are two types, the one displayed below is used against smoke grenades. The other kind is mainly used against chemicals.

Composite helmet and flak jacket: These are both used to protect the body from bullets. The helmet protects against rifles and pistols, and the flak jacket has a bullet proof plate that blocks against guns such as AK-47s and N-63s.

Stab vest: It’s good to protect from stabbing, riots and hand guns.

Packing analysis

As I’m double- and triple-checking everything I’ve crammed into my suitcase and carry-on, I’ve noticed a couple of pieces that reflect the Turkish culture and weather. These items are not too noticeable, but they’ll keep me from looking like a disrespectful and soaping-wet fool.

Skirts: I’ve packed a couple, not only because I’m going through a skirt phase, but also to cover myself up when we visit places of worship, and just to stay conservative in certain areas of town.

Head scarves: To further respect the culture when we go to mosques, I’ve brought along head scarves. Luckily, these weren’t too hard to find: my mom and I use them all the time to wrap our hair up at night.

Umbrella: It’s going to be raining for a significant amount of the days we’ll be in Istanbul, so a good umbrella is a must. I’ve also wedged in some Nike sandals. When it’s pouring, I can slip those durable babies on; then, when I get where I need to go, I can put on nicer slippers. (Note: extra sandals are also great for when you visit houses and need to take your shoes off.)

Water bottle: Make no mistake– it’s may rain, but it’s also going to be in the 70s many of the days. Plus, our house is on a hill, and I’m all about staying hydrated.

Apart from that, there are the general key things that travelers must bring (adapters, soap, visa, etc). Also, see Megan’s blog post on the journalism equipment we’re bringing.