Safety of journalists

Press freedom and the space for independent media are under threat, as stipulated in various UN resolutions addressing journalist safety. UN Sectary-General Guterres stated that ‘civic space has been shrinking worldwide at an alarming rate. And with anti-media rhetoric on the rise, so too are violence and harassment against journalists, including women … When media workers are targeted, societies as a whole pay a price.’  Governments practise legal intimidation and censorship of dissenting voices, also in the digital space. Criminal gangs threaten those who report on corruption. The result is that journalists exercise self-censorship, leave the profession, disappear into exile or stay silent. This is a deliberate attack on civic space that requires a cross-cutting approach to safety of journalists.

This Safety Resource Space is the place to find information on the safety of journalists. It includes information on Free Press Unlimited’s safety-related activities, background information on the safety of journalists, practical resources, and best practices and examples of successful projects and approaches.

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Latest updates
Totem courses available in Arabic
On 7 September the Totem Project released five courses that were contextualised and translated into Arabic. The courses have a special focus on Iraq and Syria’s difficult contexts for activists and journalists facing digital threats.

New online course: Know Your Trolls
The International Women’s Media Foundation (IWMF) created a course on online harassment for Totem, helping journalists to identify and prepare for online harassment, abuse and threats. It is available in English, French and Spanish.


Credit: Free Press Unlimited/Joris Bulckens

Introduction to safety

Free Press Unlimited believes that a safe work environment is a basic need for independent media. It is imperative that journalists carry out their work free from violence and free from obstruction. A commitment to safety cuts across all of Free Press Unlimited’s activities.

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Credit: Marloes van 't Pad Bosch

Dimensions of safety

Free Press Unlimited believes that safety should be approached as a comprehensive concept that has physical, psycho-social, digital and legal dimensions. As these dimensions of safety impact on each other, it is important to adopt an inclusive approach, that also takes gender into account.

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Credit: Free Press Unlimited/Joris Bulckens

Four pillars of safety

Free Press Unlimited directs its efforts to address safety along four different pillars, being support to journalists in distress, capacity development, tools and resources, and advocacy and campaigning.

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Credit: Romy van den Boogaart

International instruments

Free Press Unlimited’s work on the safety of journalists builds upon a number of key international instruments, which reflect international commitments to further the safety of journalists.

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Credit: Sandro Weltin

Networks and coalitions

Free Press Unlimited works together with other like-minded organisations in a number of international networks and coalitions in order to contribute towards journalist safety, both locally and internationally.

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Evidence base: Safety of journalists

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Source Year Country Author Type
Making Secondary Trauma a Primary Issue: A Study of Eyewitness Media and Vicarious Trauma on the Digital Frontline 2015 Global Eyewitness Media Hub report
Journalists and Safety Training: Experiences and Opinions 2017 Global Dart Center for Journalism & Trauma Research Lab report
CAR Reporters Flee for their Lives 2017 Central African Republic Free Press Unlimited story/stories
Defending Journalism: How National Mechanisms Can Protect Journalists and Address the Issues of Impunity. A Comparative Analysis of Practices in Seven Countries 2017 Afghanistan, Colombia, Indonesia, Iraq, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines International Media Support (IMS) report
A Changing Asian Media: Assessing Challenges and Opportunities for Evolving Media in South and Southeast Asia 2017 South and Southeast Asia International Media Support (IMS) media landscape assessment
An Attack on One is an Attack on All: Successful Initiatives to Protect Journalists and Combat Impunity 2017 Global UNESCO/IPDC case study/ies, story/stories