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Published on December 2nd, 2013 | by EJC


A Regional Approach To Journalists’ Safety

This article was written by Mark Whitehouse and originally published at IREX on 23 October, 2013. Republished with permission.

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These journalists paid the price for simply seeking to practice their profession. Every day around the world, additional untold numbers of journalists are threatened and have their phones and computers hacked. These journalists and their colleagues live in a state of constant pressure and psychological stress. The field of media development has increasingly recognized that the physical and digital security of journalists must be addressed alongside reform of media laws, development of professional standards, and business sustainability.

As an effort to address this problem, IREX launched a pilot project in 2013, Supporting Access to Free Expression (S.A.F.E.). Under S.A.F.E., IREX opened three regional security resource centers in El Salvador, Georgia, and Kenya. The centers combine training in digital security, physical safety, and psychosocial care for journalists at risk in Central America, East Africa, and Eurasia.

The project represents a shift in traditional approach that brings Western experts to these regions to provide training to journalists and media houses. S.A.F.E. instead launched with regionally-based centers staffed by local professionals so the training, resources, and support comes from the journalists’ own colleagues.

Staff from the three centers learned how to train their regional colleagues in areas of physical safety such as counter surveillance, dealing with violent crowds, emergency first aid, digital security at work and in the field, and psychosocial care. Each center has local specialists in these areas that will provide trainings, tailored security plans, and support for journalists under threat.

Another important aspect of the program lies in the development of regional solidarity. The excellent efforts of international organizations such as the Committee to Protect Journalists, International News Safety Institute, International Press Institute, Reporters Without Borders, and others who publicize crimes against journalists must be accompanied by solidarity among the journalists themselves. S.A.F.E. supports the ongoing development of national and regional solidarity through the centers. In September 2013, the El Salvador center, operated with the University of Central America, held a solidarity event for Central American journalists on the issue of journalists’ safety. The journalists left this meeting dedicated to “struggle against the crimes (offenses) that affect the freedom of expression and the right to information.” The S.A.F.E. project will work to support their goals.

About the Author:

Mark Whitehouse leads IREX’s civil society and media development programs, focusing on the intersection of civil society and media in promoting good governance. Since joining IREX in 1997, Whitehouse has managed USAID, US State Department, and privately funded media projects, with a focus on effective and appropriate cooperation between media professionals, citizen journalists, governments, and CSOs. Currently, he serves on the boards of IREX Europe and BTC ProMedia (Bulgaria). He previously served on the Executive Committee of the Global Forum for Media Development. Follow IREX on Twitter: @irexmedia

Photo: Mr T in DC

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One Response to A Regional Approach To Journalists’ Safety

  1. faisal karim says:

    Safety of the journalists is one of the most important aspects in modern journalism. I highly appreciate the efforts of IREX in El Salvador, Georgia, and Kenya. Such regional security resource centers must be launched in other parts of the world as well, especially in terrorism affected terrains. Together we can make this world a safer place for journalists to carry on their professional practices.

    faisal karim
    GEO News
    Karachi, Pakistan

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