Safety mainstreaming

Safety mainstreaming means making sure that safety becomes an integral part of the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of policies and programmes. In other words: it means that safety is taken into account in every step of the project cycle. It is essential that safety is approached in a holistic way, and that all four elements of safety (physical, digital, psycho-social and legal) are considered.

A simplified project cycle exists of the following four steps:

  1. Problem analysis
  2. Planning
  3. Implementation
  4. Evaluation and learning

Are you a Free Press Unlimited staff member and do you want learn more about the safety of journalists and safety mainstreaming? See this page for more information on an internal training hosted on Totem.

Problem analysis

The first step of any project is the problem analysis, where you analyse the context you will be working in and identify the problems that will be addressed in this project. It is essential to include an analysis of the different aspects of safety in this process and thus to analyse the context from a holistic safety point of view. This allows you to identify the main issues in the context you will be working in and what you will need to pay attention to when designing and implementing your project. Furthermore, it is important to use gender dis-aggregated data. This means that you collect data separately for men and women. In this way you can understand if women and men face different safety threats and risks and adjust your project accordingly.

Annex 1 of Protecting the Safety of Journalists, Protecting Freedom of Expression – A Handbook for EU Delegations, a handbook produced by Media4Democracy with inputs from Free Press Unlimited, provides model questions. These can be used to assess the safety situation of journalists and other media actors and the levels of impunity in a country.


The next phase of the project cycle is that of planning. Based on the problem analysis, you can start planning activities and interventions. This includes formulating indicators, reviewing the budget and doing a risk analysis.

  • Formulating indicators: In the planning phase you should already think about how you will monitor progress and measure the impact of your project.That means that you should already set up the monitoring and evaluation system in the planning phase (including a baseline). The indicators you formulate to measure planned results are crucial in this regard. It is important to include indicators on safety of journalists, so that you can measure changes. The UNESCO publication Media Development Indicators and UNESCO’s Journalists’ Safety Indicators include examples of indicators to measure the safety of journalists.
  • Budget: It is important to take safety considerations into account when you create the budget for the project. As a rule of thumb, it is advisable to always allocate money for safety in a project budget. You can think about resources for concrete safety interventions, such as the development of a training or a curriculum, as well as resources for safety activities. These may include risk assessments, safe software and hardware, safety equipment etc.
  • Risk assessment: A risk assessment is important in the planning phase of your project, to understand the risks of a project and how it might impact the implementation and outcomes of the activities. By making a risk assessment, you can plan mitigating measures to lower the likelihood and/or the impact of the threats. 


After the planning phase, it is time to implement the activities. These may range from emergency support, to capacity building in all of its forms, to advocacy and campaigning.

Regardless of the type of activities, it is crucial to keep track of the process of a project during its implementation, in order to be able to adjust activities along the way where needed and to make sure the needs of people involved are met and the planned objectives are achieved. The first step in this is to establish a baseline, so that you know the situation at the beginning of the project and you can measure progress compared to the baseline along the way. Your safety analysis will probably already give you a lot of baseline information, but you might need to collect additional data.

Evaluation and learning

After (and during) the implementation of the project, it is important to properly evaluate it and learn from it to improve future programmes. This is the final stage of the project cycle, but evaluation and learning is a constant and ongoing process; the findings and lessons learned of the last stage should be used in the analysis and design of new programmes.

Evaluating safety can happen at various levels, but either way it is important to look back at the indicators that you set in the planning stage. You can measure progress made against your baseline using different methods, such as surveys, Outcome Harvesting, or Most Significant Change.