This photograph taken October 4, 2016 shows the Signal encrypted messaging app loading on a smartphone. A new fact sheet CPJ has released with the Internet Society underscores that encryption is vital for journalists working electronically. (AP/Raphael Satter)
This photograph taken October 4, 2016 shows the Signal encrypted messaging app loading on a smartphone. A new fact sheet CPJ has released with the Internet Society underscores that encryption is vital for journalists working electronically. (AP/Raphael Satter)

New CPJ, Internet Society fact sheet on why journalists need encryption

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The Committee to Protect Journalists and Internet Society today released a joint fact sheet that explains the importance of encryption to press freedom and the free flow of information.

Encryption is the process of scrambling information so it can only be read by someone with the keys to open and unscramble the information. As such, it offers essential protection for anyone who communicates and shares files electronically—as journalists do routinely, especially those observing measures to restrict movement amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“If journalists cannot communicate in confidence with colleagues and sources, they cannot do their jobs in safety,” the fact sheet explains. “Likewise, if they cannot protect the anonymity of their sources, those sources may not come forward, and the public will pay the price.”

Release of the fact sheet comes at a time when encryption is under attack from governments around the world, including the United States. News reports have repeatedly cited Trump administration officials stating that technology companies should stop using advanced encryption. In December 2019, as Politico reported, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), told representatives of Apple and Facebook in a Congressional hearing that if they did not enable law enforcement officials to bypass encryption with a warrant, Congress would force them to do so.

Just last month, CPJ reported on how Nigerian police have used telecommunications surveillance to lure and arrest journalists; a separate October report documented the Nigerian military’s use of forensic technology to search journalists’ phones and computers for sources. These methods underscore the need to guarantee that tools journalists rely on to work and communicate are protected with robust encryption.

CPJ has previously reported on how resistance to encryption jeopardizes journalism, interviewed Saudi and Moroccan targets of spyware designed to hack encrypted messages, and urged the Trump administration to be a global leader in protecting strong encryption.

You can read the Internet Society’s announcement here, and view our joint fact sheet here.