It is important for U.S. citizens who travel abroad as journalists to understand the legal and security environments in which they operate.
Take the Time to Learn About Your Destination
Press freedom varies widely from country to country. Some countries have legally guaranteed rights related to freedom of speech and other forms of press and media freedom, whether in their constitutions or other local laws, comparable to the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment. Other countries have laws that severely curtail freedom of expression. Find country-specific information on press and media freedoms in the State Department’s Human Rights reports.
- Before traveling, make sure you understand the visa rules and processes in your destination country. Do you need a special journalist visa to work there? What are the potential consequences for people who violate their visa?
- When you arrive in a country where you plan to work as a journalist, contact the Public Affairs Section at the local U.S. embassy. They can provide background and insight into conditions for journalists in that country.
- Find out if you must register with a local press syndicate or receive official press credentials. Sometimes, countries may tolerate “informal” journalists until there is criticism of the local government. Not having a press credential might be used as a reason to deport or even imprison you.
- Get travel and safety updates while abroad by enrolling in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP).
- Carefully review journalist security guidance provided by international and non-governmental organizations (links below).
- Carefully consider whether travel to high-risk areas is necessary. Personal safety should be a consideration for any travel abroad. Be especially aware of where the Department of State warns U.S. citizens against all travel.
- In a country where there is no U.S. embassy or consulate, the United States may only provide limited consular services or no services at all in the case of a detention, arrest, or death of a U.S. citizen.
- Traveling to certain locations puts your life – and possibly the lives of others – at risk. You may risk being kidnapped or taken hostage when traveling to these areas.
- Read about other considerations before traveling to high-risk areas.
- All travelers – including journalists – should have insurance to cover medical, evacuation, and unexpected expenses.
- Know the rules about importing security equipment – such as protective vests or helmets and satellite phones – which may be prohibited in some countries.