Knight Center
Knight Center


Working groups suggest strategies for improving journalists' security, fighting impunity at 10th Austin Forum

During the last day of the 10th Austin Forum on Journalism in the Americas, held May 20-22, the participants gathered into four groups to discuss different and important topics about this year's theme: "Security and Protection for Journalists, Blogger, and Citizen Journalists."

The first group discussed how to create better mechanisms in emergency situations, such as providing journalist networks, revising alert protocols, and coordinating security actions. Monica Gonzalez, director of CIPER in Chile, pointed out that there are a couple of common characteristics when dealing with security problems for journalists. One is that the majority of journalists at risk are provincial, which leaves them isolated, unprotected, and no one ever knows what they are working on. The other problem is that the lack of security for journalists is something that is not approached in the way it should be, said Gonzalez.

This group recommended improving the alert system, incorporating informative and concrete elements about the journalist that is at risk, and including more information to know whom other journalists and organizations should pressure. This would provide more visibility, said Gonzalez.

Concluding, this group recommended that some organizations, such as CIPER, IDL-Reporters in Peru, and the Argentine Journalism Forum, create a database about journalists who are at risk and spread this information.

The second group discussed how to engage with civil society. Three goals were brought up: to raise public awareness, mobilization, and to be able to "empower" the right people. Doing so, they said, requires more transparency, more advocates, and more participation and communication between media outlets and the audience. "We have a social power and social leadership which can be taken advantage of," said Luis Carlos Diaz, from the Gumilla Center of Venezuela.

The third group discussed cybernetic security. The most important protection measure -- something that not all journalists do -- is to use passwords on computers and cell phones, which is a simple thing to do. This is a basic element, said Jillian York, director of International Freedom of Expression for the Electronic Frontier Foundation of the U.S.

York presented many tools for encrypting instant messaging applications, emails, and web navigation, as well as a tool to prevent monitoring and censorship, called Tor. "Remember, no tool is perfect," said York. Additional resources can be found here.

The fourth group discussed the inter-American support and advocacy systems of the Organization of American States. First, more information is needed, like what are the key documents for any type of action to go before the Inter American Commission of Human Rights. This would facilitate mobilization and public interest to create awareness about freedom of expression. Second, is the need to improve use of social networks. Third, there's a need to mobilize human rights and freedom of expression intellectuals.

In the end, all participants concluded that it is important to expand these techniques and tools to include not only journalists, but bloggers and citizen journalists as well.

See here for more information about the 10th Austin Forum. This year's forum is themed "Security and Protection for Journalists, Bloggers, and Citizen Journalists," and is organized by the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas and the Latin America and media programs of the Open Society Foundations.

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