Building digital safety for journalism

A survey of selected issues

This fourth edition in the UNESCO Series on Internet freedom analyses 12 key digital threats to journalism, ranging from hacking of journalistic communications, through to denial-of-service attacks on media websites. It 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 and to people who are sources for journalists.

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. The 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 organizations.

Journalists are recommended to “acknowledge that security is always a trade-off of resources and prioritize security needs based on individualized risk assessment – avoid the extremes of paranoia on one hand, and a sense of futility on the other”. The report advises: “Treat digital hygiene as a habit and practice.”

It is underlined that digital security training needs to go beyond technology to empower journalists with knowledge the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity, as well as key resolutions passed within the UN system. The holistic approach to training proposed by the report covers the importance of including pyscho-social considerations in any courses. A chapter on gender in the study assesses how women journalists are especially targeted by digital threats.

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