Safety of journalists

Are you a journalist in distress?

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. Photo: E. Romero.


Prevention

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

In addition, Free Press Unlimited developed a curriculum for a safety training that is specifically tailored to women journalists. It is a comprehensive safety training that integrates physical, digital, and psycho-social safety elements. You can find more information and the full curriculum here.
 

Protection

Of course the ideal is to prevent attacks on journalists. Unfortunately, that is not the reality. Every year we assist hundreds 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.

Over the last few years, journalists are increasingly facing legal threats. Arbitrary arrests and defamation cases are often used to pressure journalists into censorship. To protect journalists who are facing legal threats, Free Press Unlimited manages a Legal Defense Fund. Through this 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.

 

Demonstration for press freedom in Venezuela
Demonstration for press freedom in Venezuela. Photo: Sincepto/Rafael Hernández.


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.
 

Prosecution

We see that the judiciary plays an essential role in achieving safety and protection for journalists. Impunity for crimes against journalists is a huge problem. 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.
 

Journalists in Distress Network

The Journalists in Distress network is an informal network involving 22 international organisations providing assistance to journalists. Free Press Unlimited currently coordinates the network.

Article 19 | Canadian Journalists for Freedom of Expression (CJFE)| Committee to Protect Journalists | Defend Defenders (EHAHRDP) | English PEN | Euro-Mediterranean Foundation of Support to Human Rights Defenders | European Centre for Press and Media Freedom | Freedom House | Front Line Defenders | ICORN International Cities of Refuge | | International Media Support | Internews | International Women's Media Foundation | IREX Journalist Safety Network | Journalists helping journalists | Marie Colvin Journalists Network | Media Defence | Pen International | Pen America | Rory Peck Trust | Reporters Without Borders | SKeyes Center for Media and Cultural Freedom


Media Freedom Rapid Response

The Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) tracks, monitors and reacts to violations of press and media freedom in EU Member States and Candidate Countries. This project provides legal and practical support, public advocacy and information to protect journalists and media workers. The project commenced in 2020 and is funded by the European Commission.

The consortium consists out of European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)  | Article 19 | the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) | Free Press Unlimited (FPU) | the Institute for Applied Informatics at the University of Leipzig (InfAI) | International Press Institute (IPI) | CCI/Osservatorio Balcani e Caucaso Transeuropa (OBCT).

Read more about the MFRR here.

 

For more information on this theme, please see our Safety resource guide.

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