PRESSURE - Digital security courses for journalists & activists

Totem: Digital security courses for journalists

Safety of journalists

The open source platform Totem offers free interactive courses on digital security to journalists to help them effectively protect themselves against threats. Totem provides journalists with up-to-date knowledge and (behavior) skills that enable them to stay ahead of emerging threats. The courses are free and available for everyone.

Digital security has never been more important for journalists. Not everyone is happy with the information investigative journalists expose, nor the public awareness activists raise about certain issues.There are many governments who feel threatened enough to gather extensive information about journalists. This can be information about their whereabouts, networks or sources. Authorities can then use this intelligence to intimidate the media. 

Journalists and media organisations often lack the awareness and training to digitally protect themselves, their information and their sources. If private online communication of these journalists ends up in the wrong hands, it may be used against them. Because of this, Free Press Unlimited and Greenhost created the online learning platform Totem in 2016. Later, the digital learning knowledge of Media Development Collective was added to the team, and Greenhost's role was limited to hosting of the website and courses. 

In 2023, more than 1,300 people signed up for a course at Totem. This number keeps growing: every month 200 journalists (re)register for courses.


The courses offered by Totem range from 'Protecting Your Sources' to 'Confronting Online Harassment'. So far, the platform offers 74 courses. To ensure that these knowledge and skills can be shared across borders, Totem offers the training courses in seven languages: English, Spanish, Russian, Arabic, French, Bangla and Farsi. The courses, which last 1.5 hours on average, are supplemented with examples and tutorials to make it understandable for everyone. It is possible to download a certificate at the end of the course.

Totem also ensures that each training is localised. This means that each course is tailored to the context of the region. Course content, including graphics and example scenarios, will be customised to the political and religious context of the region. Local access to digital security tools and good practices are also taken into account. In this way, the course better matches the journalists’ situation and needs.

New courses
Because of the fast-moving digital developments that bring along new security risks for journalists, Totem is always creating new courses. The team, consisting of various experts and online (digital security) trainers, collaborates to create high-quality course content and an effective training curriculum. Courses already developed, are quality-checked every six months to ensure they remain relevant.

The Totem platform is built using the open-source Open edX MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) software. The platform has been carefully designed to be safe and privacy-preserving by collecting minimal data about its users and also using secure, modern encryption to prevent any eavesdropping.


Create your own course at Totem

Does your organisation require a customised course? No problem, we are always open to expand Totem's course offer! Together we can look at the purpose of the course, taking into account your organisations protocols, tools and security. These courses can be made available either publicly or for a selective group.
Please reach out to Hans Nieuwenhuijse to discuss the opportunities: +31682095569 //



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