Safety of journalists

At Free Press Unlimited we consider safety an all-embracing concept that includes the physical, psycho-social, digital and the legal domains equally. We believe that there are no one-size-fits-all solutions, as the safety challenges vary per context, and therefore the solutions differ as well. Our approach is based on three pillars: Prevention, Protection and Prosecution.


Safety training in El Salvador
Safety training in El Salvador


In preventing and decreasing attacks on journalists, law enforcement plays a big role. When good legislation is in place, that protects press freedom and freedom of expression, the tolerance for attacks on journalists will decrease. To accomplish this, advocacy is a very important tool. We have provided inputs to numerous resolutions and declarations passed by international collaborations regarding the safety of media professionals, like the review of the UNESCO Plan of Action for the Safety of Journalists. Besides the judicial part, we also work on prevention by making journalists more resilient for (online) attacks. For example, we provide free courses about digital safety to journalists worldwide through our platform Totem


Of course the ideal is to prevent attacks on journalists. Unfortunately, that is not the reality. Every year we assist hu ndreds of journalists and media organisations in distress. For this, Free Press Unlimited manages an emergency fund for media workers: Reporters Respond. This international emergency fund provides direct assistance to journalists and media outlets, enabling them to resume work as quickly as possible when faced with a crisis situation. The fund can support journalists who have been confronted with (online) harassment, intimidation or violence, but also with the purchase of a new laptop, telephone or protective material. All so they can continue their vital work.

Insurances for local journalists is also an important issue in protection. As Free Press Unlimited has worked on crisis cases around the world for many years, we know first hand that most of these journalists neither had a risk assessment or an insurance plan in place. In 2021, Free Press Unlimited launched a pilot insurance project, insuring 90 local journalists for a period of one year (for an average of 10 days per month) in Central America. Being insured provides a sense of protection, for themselves and their families, giving journalists a peace of mind when they are out on the street covering protests or investigating corruption and organised crime.


We see that the judiciary plays an essential role in achieving safety and protection for journalists. Almost all over the world, there is an increase in legal attacks against journalists and media, and when they go to court they often have little chance due to bad legislation or pressure from the government. Impunity for crimes against journalists is a huge problem. With the Legal Defense Fund, we provide support to journalists and media organisations who face prosecution or imprisonment and who are unable to afford a lawyer or trial costs. This way, they will not be forced to withdraw their defense and accept the consequences of, often false, accusations.

When a journalist is murdered for doing his or her job, in nine out of ten cases the killer goes free. With A Safer World For The Truth we fight against this impunity. In this project cold cases of murdered journalists are re-opened and investigated. Through these investigations, new facts and information around the killings will be revealed, paving the way for pursuing justice. 

International partnerships

We are not working on this alone. Together with international partners we verify and discuss cases, coordinate joint efforts and aim to find sustainable solutions where possible. One example of this is the Journalists in Distress network, involving 22 international organisations providing assistance to journalists, that Free Press Unlimited currently coordinates.

Photo: E. Romero.

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