In many ways, the dangers facing journalists are unchanged over several decades. Some of the broadest, most indiscriminate attacks on the press came in 2011, during uprisings demanding democratic reforms. Government officials and ruling party militants in Egypt attacked more journalists more blatantly over a shorter span than in any time in memory. Journalists of many nationalities working for media serving audiences in every major language group were attacked or detained. The broad range of violence and restrictions underscored the invaluable role that journalists play in holding governments and others accountable.
Yet technology is rapidly altering the way news is spread. The release in 2010 and 2011 of classified American diplomatic correspondence by the document-disclosure network WikiLeaks highlighted the global revolution in the flow of information. Governments and their allies are moving aggressively to stanch this flow, CPJ research shows. About half of all journalists imprisoned around the world are incarcerated on antistate charges such as engaging in espionage and violating state secrets. And those at risk reflect the changing nature of the news business: About half of the journalists behind bars at any given time work primarily online, and about half are freelancers. Each year, those proportions grow larger.
New, online media networks are on the rise. Some are modeled on traditional news models, while others bring together journalists as a community of stringers. Journalists in the latter category often work without the institutional support, including insurance and legal backing, that many staff journalists have long enjoyed. In this changing and dangerous climate, be guided by some basic principles: Be fully informed about security issues, make your safety a primary consideration, prepare yourself thoroughly for each assignment, look out for other journalists in the field, and take care of yourself before, during, and after assignment.