Citizen journalists in many countries around the world face harassment, threat of bodily harm, and the prospect of unlawful imprisonment. Depending on the country in which they work, the government and or military in power may not allow the dissemination of news that does not meet the leadership’s criteria. In many cases, these journalists are local individuals who are trying to get the word out to others in their area and around the world that horrible crimes and atrocities are being committed by the very government or military that is attempting to censor them. While journalists in these situations will always face threats, thankfully there are strategies available today that individuals can utilize to at least minimize some of the risks.
Digital Security Practices
Mohamed Soltan is a de facto citizen journalist who covered the Rab’aa sit-in following the July 3rd, 2013 coup d’état in Egypt. He was arrested and sentenced to life in prison. Thankfully, the United States intervened and he has since been released. However, he and others like him may have benefitted back then from the types of digital security practices that are available now.
Thankfully, citizen journalists can share articles, videos, and any other relevant information digitally. Many strategies exist to keep the digital accounts of these journalists safe and out of the hands of those that may attempt to stop them from doing their work. Journalists may benefit from apps that allow encrypted communication. They can also secure accounts with strong passwords, and they can do regular security checkups on all social media accounts to ensure anonymity if desired. Many of these options are free, but additional security measures are available for a minimal investment.
Many journalists today can work remotely from safer areas while investigating stories in more dangerous places. The ability to securely utilize communication apps to interview and discuss topics from afar allows individuals to investigate subjects from a position of safety. Utilizing the digital security options mentioned above, citizen journalists can share information with sources around the world and effectively compile relevant content without stepping foot in the area. While some may question the validity of reporting remotely, as more reputable journalists utilize this option going forward, the more faith the audience will have in the information.
Organizations around the world are available to train citizen journalists on safe practices. As more techniques become available to keep these individuals safe, they can be shared with journalists via virtual training by subject-matter experts. Thankfully, non-profit organizations exist in many countries to empower citizen journalists with the tools they need to effectively report the news while staying safe.
Information is power, and thankfully there exist individual citizens who are willing to risk their health and lives trying to share information in areas of the world where leadership would like to censor them. For those journalists, digital security practices, alternative location options, and training are available now to help minimize the risk of their dangerous tasks. The more tools they can use to stay safe, the more effectively they will be able to do this essential work.