Where Journalists Sleep When Covering War Zones?

Where Journalists Sleep When Covering War Zones?

Journalists who cover conflicts and wars face immense challenges and dangers. Unlike soldiers, they do not have weapons or formal military protection. Yet they put themselves into extremely risky situations to report the truth of what is happening on the ground.

Finding safe places to sleep is one of the major logistical and safety issues journalists in war zones grapple with on a daily basis. With bombings, gunfire, unstable infrastructure, etc., simply resting can be a life or death situation.

This article will provide an in-depth look at the sleeping conditions and arrangements journalists create for themselves in order to do their duty to report from dangerous conflict areas.

Safety Protocols and Training Before Arrival

Before deploying to a war zone, responsible media organizations provide conflict zone safety training for journalists. This includes protocols for what to do under fire, at checkpoints, if taken hostage, etc. It also covers first aid, communication plans, protective equipment, and mental/emotional preparedness.

Most journalists take combat first aid courses and obtain protective gear like helmets, flak jackets, and sometimes armored vehicles. They research the weapons and conditions in the area they’ll be covering. The more informed journalists are before arrival, the better decisions they can make on the ground to mitigate risks.

Sleeping Arrangements in the Field

Embedded with Military Units

Reporters embedded with military units on the frontlines sleep wherever the troops bed down. This often means outside in makeshift camps, dugouts, abandoned buildings, etc. The journalists share the same conditions as the soldiers.

The military may provide tents, but journalists should also carry their own portable shelter like bivvy sacks. As they accompany troops on operations, flexibility is key. They need to be ready to pack up and move locations along with the unit.

Independent Journalists in Urban War Zones

Journalists working independently in cities ravaged by war face a different set of challenges for securing lodging. Hotels often cease functioning, while apartments and shelters come under fire. Many structures lack electricity, water, and other essential services too.

Reporters end up bedding down wherever they can find relative safety – hospitals, basements, hallways, vehicles, etc. They try to choose locations away from identifiable sniper positions or strategic military sites when possible. Having a network of local journalist colleagues to swap info on safe areas is invaluable.

Makeshift Media Centers

In prolonged urban battles like Gaza or Aleppo, the journalist community established makeshift media centers in functioning hospitals, schools, or office buildings. These serve as a home base for reporters from multiple news outlets.

The centers provide a place for journalists to sleep, eat, share info, and recharge equipment. Often they have backup generators and supplies stockpiled too. However, these crowded hubs can also turn into tragic targets for military strikes.

Refugee Camps

Some journalists cover wars from the civilian perspective inside refugee camps. Here they sleep in tents or shared shelters much like the displaced residents around them.

While removed from frontline risks, refugee camps also struggle with overcrowding, food shortages, and disease outbreaks. Reporting from these deprived settlements provides an important but hazardous assignment.

Dangers and Trauma When Resting in War Zones

No location in a war zone is truly safe for journalists to rest. Stray bullets, off-target missiles, improvised explosives, and fire threaten every space. Exhaustion diminishes situational awareness and judgement too.

Many journalists are injured or killed while sleeping, eating, or traveling – not just when out on patrol. And the emotional trauma of witnessing violence leaves little opportunity for proper sleep. The adrenaline rush of war makes it hard to ever fully relax or let down your guard.

This takes an immense physical and mental toll. Journalists in combat zones for extended periods can suffer insomnia, anxiety disorders, burnout, PTSD, and other chronic health consequences. Self-care is difficult but essential.

Tips for Safer Sleeping Arrangements

When choosing somewhere to bed down in a war zone, keep these safety tips in mind:


  • Pick an interior room without windows on the ground floor if possible
  • Avoid sleeping near visible military locations or equipment
  • Have multiple exit routes from the space


  • Add sandbags or other barriers around the exterior
  • Close blinds, blackout curtains
  • Place mattresses and gear away from windows/doors


  • Keep shoes, protective equipment, ID, and go bag ready
  • Know primary and secondary exit paths
  • Set up early warning system – bells, tin cans, etc


  • Try to sleep during lulls in combat when possible
  • Take turns keeping watch with colleagues
  • Don’t sleep more than a few hours consecutively
  • Stay hydrated, avoid alcohol before rest

Additional Safety Resources for Journalists

The following organizations provide excellent journalist safety guides with more tips on covering conflicts:

No guide or training can guarantee safety in a war zone. But proper precautions and awareness help journalists minimize risks on these perilous but crucial assignments.

Frequently Asked Questions

Where do journalists sleep on frontline embeds?

Journalists embedded with military units on frontline operations sleep wherever the soldiers bed down – makeshift camps, abandoned buildings, dugouts, etc. They share the same conditions as the troops and move locations along with them.

What kind of shelters do independent journalists use?

Independent reporters often take shelter wherever they can find relative safety – hospitals, basements, vehicles, interior hallways, etc. Press centers are also established inside functioning buildings to house journalists.

What risks do journalists face while resting?

No location is truly safe. Stray bullets, explosions, improvised bombs, structural collapse all threaten journalists continuously. Exhaustion also diminishes safety. Many are injured or killed while eating, sleeping, or traveling – not only when reporting stories.

How can journalists maximize safety when sleeping?

Choose an interior room on the ground floor when possible. Fortify the location with sandbags/barriers. Have multiple exit routes prepared. Keep equipment and ID ready. Set up early warning systems. Take turns keeping watch and don’t sleep more than a few hours. Stay hydrated and avoid alcohol.

What resources help journalists prepare for conflicts?

Organizations like the Committee to Protect Journalists, RSF, INSI, and Dart Center provide excellent conflict zone safety guides and hostile environment training for journalists before deployment.


Reporting from combat zones requires incredible bravery and dedication from journalists. Not only must they witness traumatic events up close while dodging the same bullets and bombs as soldiers. But finding safe places to eat, sleep, and live is an ongoing battle on top of actually covering the war itself.

By learning best practices, securing protective gear, and supporting one another, war correspondents lessen the risks they face to show the world what is happening on the frontlines. However safety is always relative at best, and many still pay the ultimate price. The state of perpetual danger and hypervigilance takes immense physical, emotional, and mental tolls that can haunt journalists for life.

We owe tremendous gratitude to those willing to undertake such hazardous duty. The liberties and comforts we enjoy at home come at the cost of those willing to sacrifice themselves on the frontlines of war. By reporting the truth of conflicts, journalists give these sacrifices meaning and purpose. Our freedom relies on citizens being informed to hold leaders accountable for the wars fought in our name.

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