05.04.2016 - Communication & Information Sector

Building digital safety for journalism

Securing journalistic communications, left to right: David Kaye, Eva Galperin, Mark Stephens, Courtney Radsch, John Maguire, Guy Berger. © UNESCO

“The task is to build a digital shelter for journalism. Like any construction endeavour, this takes many actors – meaning that digital safety is not just the responsibility of those who most need the cover.”

These were the concluding remarks by UNESCO Director for Freedom of Expression and Media Development, Guy Berger, at the end of a panel held at the RightsCon conference in San Francisco last week.

Appearing on the panel was UN Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression and Opinion, David Kaye, who referred to the multistakeholder UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity, and the importance of digital issues for all journalistic actors.

The experience of a cyberattack on TV5 Monde was described by John Maguire, Director of International Relations and Cooperation of France Medias Monde.

From the Committee to Protect Journalists, Courtney Radsch, highlighted hateful electronic communications targeting women journalists.

A common theme in the panel was the importance of having security for journalists, and not only for state institutions.

Eva Galperin of the Electronic Freedom Foundation urged increased use of HTTPS protocols, and identified phishing via email attachments as one of the major techniques used to infiltrate journalists’ communications.

Panellist Mark Stephens cautioned that while journalists needed to encrypt their data, in some countries this could be illegal.

Berger said that journalists should report electronic attacks so that authorities could take action to end impunity for the perpetrators. He recommended UNESCO’s publications on the protection of sources in the digital age, and Building Digital Safety for Journalists.  

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