Journalists and technologists often speak different languages. But a Portland, Oregon-based nonprofit, Small World News, is bridging the gap with a new guide on the safe use of satellite phones. It comes at a critical time.
The group's Guide to Safely Using Satphones just went online, less than three weeks after the deaths of international journalists Marie Colvin and Rémi Ochlik in Homs, Syria. Several journalists who worked in Homs suspected the Syrian government targeted the building where Colvin, Ochlik, and other journalists were working. If government forces indeed targeted the building, they could have relied on several forms of intelligence, including the tracking of journalists' satellite signals.
The guide's 40-page text, available in PDF, details the basic operation
of a satellite phone, the risk of it being detected in a hostile environment,
and the counter-measures one can take to mitigate risk. The guide addresses the
various risks posed when using sat phones for voice calls, SMS, and email.
Among the practical tips for those in the field: Keep voice calls short (three minutes or less) to avoid detection in a hostile area; delete call logs and sent folders in case your phone is confiscated; and disguise the use of a satellite phone if you're in a hostile area.