CPJ Journalist Security Blog

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NBC's Richard Engel and AP's Kathleen Carroll at the U.N. Security Council. (AP/Mary Altaffer)

Speaking at a U.N. Security Council discussion about the protection of journalists, Associated Press Executive Editor and CPJ Vice Chair Kathleen Carroll remembered the 31 AP journalists who have died reporting the news and whose names grace the Wall of Honor that visitors pass as they enter the agency's New York headquarters. Most were killed covering war, from the Battle of the Little Big Horn to Vietnam to Iraq. But around the world, Carroll noted, "most journalists who die today are not caught in some wartime crossfire, they are murdered just because of what they do. And those murders are rarely ever solved; the killers rarely ever punished."

Two major security efforts coincide with World Press Freedom Day.

In the past, donors and groups providing security to journalists in less-developed nations tended to export a Western, military-style of training designed for a war-time environment. But the danger of covering combat is one thing. Being fired upon by a motorcycle-riding assassin is another--as is being sexually molested in a crowd, discovering a video camera in one's bedroom, or having one's phone calls intercepted. And then there is emotional toll of losing dear colleagues, and wondering whether you or your family will be next.

The two websites at the University of Texas at Austin, at first blush, seemed to have been unlikely targets for attack. The Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas and its blog cover news about journalism, press freedom and journalist safety throughout the Western hemisphere, with an emphasis on trends in Latin America. The website of the International Symposium for Online Journalism provides information about meetings and other professional issues. Both websites were shut down for two weeks last month in a targeted cyber-attack.

A TV crew reports on the shooting in Colorado from a parking lot across the street. (AFP/Getty Images/Chip Somodevilla)

The rampage inside a Colorado movie theater that killed 12 people and injured dozens more is the most recent reminder that a journalist anywhere can face sudden, great emotional stress. Any story involving tragedy--from domestic violence to natural disasters--can inflict an emotional toll on field journalists. The very empathy that makes a journalist a good storyteller puts him or her at risk.

Members of the press get their first look at the site of the 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa. Security zones have been established outside to ensure people's safety. (AP/Brian Blanco)

If May's NATO Summit in Chicago is any indication, journalists covering events outside the national political conventions in Tampa, Fla., and Charlotte, N.C., later this summer can expect that everyone--mainstream media, bloggers, citizen journalists, protesters, and bystanders--will have a camera of one kind or another. With the widespread proliferation of cellphone cameras, capable of recording high-quality images along with audio and video, it seemed like everybody was documenting everything and everyone.


Video streaming by Ustream

On the frontlines of global reporting, knowledge is safety. CPJ's event series to promote our new Journalist Security Guide continued Wednesday in Washington, D.C. where we teamed up with Internews for a panel discussion on journalist security on-site and online. 

On Sunday the general assembly of the Organization of American States will convene in Bolivia in the verdant, highland valley city of Cochabamba. The 35 member states (every nation in the region except Cuba) are expected to vote on a measure that, if passed, could curtail free expression and press throughout the hemisphere and put journalists and others at greater risk.

Visitors look at an exhibit displaying the bloodstained clothes of the Jesuit priests murdered by the Salvadoran military in 1989. (AP/Luis Romero)

No other journalists are remembered quite like this. Visitors looking through the glass display at the Monsignor Romero Center & Martyrs Museum in San Salvador see the pajamas and other clothes that three Jesuit university priests were wearing when they were shot down by automatic rifle fire. A series of clear containers are filled with dark blades of grass cut from the campus lawn where each had spilled his blood.

Photographers take cover behind a barricade during a protest in Egypt last year. Journalists are often forced to take deadly risks when working in war zones, usually with limited training and no insurance. (AFP/Mohammed Abed)

The guidance is hardly clear. At a Columbia University event last week pegged to the release of the new CPJ Journalist Security Guide, one journalism student said he and his classmates are getting contradictory advice. Many J-school professors, he said, have encouraged him and others to just get up, go overseas, and try to make it as a freelancer. But the experienced journalists speaking at the event advised caution.

Panelists at the launch of the new CPJ Journalist Security Guide at Columbia University. (CPJ/Nicole Schilit)

Governments and criminal organizations are stepping up digital surveillance of journalists, but the press is not keeping pace in meeting the challenge, a panel of experts said Wednesday at an event marking the launch of the CPJ Journalist Security Guide. Reporters are using unsecure consumer electronic products for sensitive tasks such as note-taking and source management, the experts said, without sufficiently assessing the risks.

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