20.03.2015 - Communication & Information Sector

Building Digital Safety for Journalism: UNESCO launches a new publication


“Building digital safety for journalism: a survey of selected issues” is the new title of the fourth edition in the UNESCO Internet freedom series. In order to improve global understanding of emerging safety threats linked to digital developments, UNESCO commissioned this research within the Organization’s on-going efforts to promote freedom of expression online and offline and implement the UN Inter-Agency Plan on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity.

Parallel to the growing digitisation of journalism which brings unprecedented benefits to both producers and consumers of journalism, there are worrying trends that have emerged. This publication thus identifies at least 12 digital threats, including illegal or arbitrary digital surveillance, location tracking, and software and hardware exploits without the knowledge of the target. Further examples that are considered are: phishing, fake domain attacks, Man-in-the-Middle (MitM) attacks, and Denial of Service (DoS).

While not all the people who contribute to journalism are fulltime journalists, the research takes an inclusive approach that is relevant to any actor who is in danger of being targeted for doing journalism. Indeed, many points made are also of direct relevance to human rights defenders in general, to people who are sources for journalists, and even to actors who simply make use of digital communications for personal use.

In examining cases worldwide, this publication serves as a resource for a range of actors.  In a nutshell, it surveys the evolving threats, and assesses preventive, protective and pre-emptive measures. It shows that digital security for journalism encompasses, but also goes beyond, the technical dimension. This publication also gives an overview of actors and initiatives working to address digital safety, as well as identifying gaps in knowledge that call for awareness-raising. Recommendations are made for governments, journalism contributors and sources, news organizations, trainers, corporations and international organisations.

These insights are valuable for policymakers, civil society organisations, media companies, and a range of journalistic actors, offering them enhanced understanding about new challenges to journalism safety. 

The research was enabled under a contribution by the Kingdom of Denmark. The publication will be launched and presented at a number of international events including the forthcoming UNESCO IPDC meeting in Paris, 27 March 2015,  World Press Freedom Day Celebration Event in Riga, 3 May 2015  and 10th Internet Governance Forum in Brazil, 10-13 November 2015.

Other publications in the Internet Freedom series:

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