Another Edition of the “Press Correspondent” Course Completed in Uruguay
By Nastasia Barceló/Diálogo September 23, 2016The National Peace Operations Training Institute of Uruguay (ENOPU per its Spanish acronym), and the Uruguayan Army's Department of Social Communication, jointly organized another edition of the "Press Correspondent" course, which took place from August 15th to 18th. The course was divided into two days: theoretical lessons at ENOPU and two practical activities at the Sixth Abra de Castellanos Military Camp. During the theoretical classes, participants learned about the current situation of the peacekeeping missions in the Congo and Haiti, where Uruguayan Armed Forces are participating, among others. Instructors from the Uruguayan Navy, Air Force, and Army were present. During this first day, participants also learned about humanitarian demining, preventive health measures, negotiation, and basic equipment. Official Army sources highlighted the presence of well-known local journalists such as Martín Sarthou, who shared his extensive personal and work experience in conflict zones with those present. Among the participants was Ensign Mariana Meza, who works in the Army's Department of Social Communication. She stressed that "professionals from relevant Uruguayan media outlets and three professionals from foreign media channels participated, as well as students from journalism schools from both the University of the Republic and private institutions like the Catholic University of Uruguay." Ensign Meza added that "The main objective was to give the journalists the tools they need to work in a hostile environment and to provide them with life-saving techniques for different scenarios, whether it be during a negotiation or a direct assault." However, "the course was also geared towards informing the students about the tasks and the functions that our country has during peacekeeping missions, as well as the specific characteristics about where the armed forces are present," she concluded. Engineers in action The course’s practical activities took place during the afternoons of August 16th and 17th at the Abra Military Camp. The Engineer Instruction Center provided instructors and specialists in areas such as humanitarian demining and water purification. In order to hone their observation skills, they debated situations which the communications professionals could face while covering the news in certain conflict areas. The Air Force also explained how to correctly board a military helicopter. Humanitarian demining and water purification In relation to humanitarian demining instruction, participants attended theoretical/practical classes on characteristics of demining, such as the types of mines and equipment used and how they work. The specialists also held demonstrations on how to react when faced with an explosion. Likewise, they watched demonstrations on water purification and learned how a portable water purifier works in remote areas where there is no electricity. It is a system that can produce 1 gallon/3.8 liters of potable water per minute from sources of freshwater such as wells, lakes, ponds, rivers, and flooded areas. In the Abra de Castellanos area, students had the opportunity to observe deployment in mission areas, the transport of armored vehicles, checkpoint procedures, night vision goggle use, and proper handling of security elements. Civil-military cooperation The Press Correspondent course is well known among journalists and military members throughout Uruguay. Ensign Meza pointed out that, historically, "officers invite journalists from Uruguay to travel with them and embed themselves in the missions' military bases, offering journalists the chance to have access to places and situations they wouldn't otherwise have the opportunity to access by themselves." For his part, Uruguayan journalist Martin Sarthou stressed the importance of educational programs like these: "They provide more freedom and security to the correspondents who work in the field where there are Uruguayan military contingents. At the same time, our work provides a first-hand account of the work carried out by the peacekeeping missions." He also said that "the only restrictions that the Army has placed on us journalists are the ones that have to do with safety measures concerning security in conflict zones. What we are trying to avoid is for a reporter to become a martyr for their profession merely because they don't know the dangers that can exist in peace mission areas."