Capacity development

To conduct their work safely, media professionals in repressive environments need to be able to mitigate risks and foster a safe working environment. However, around the world – and particularly in restrictive societies – media professionals have limited access to quality education on issues relating to safety. This lack of knowledge places them in a position where malicious actors can easily intimidate, harass and attack the media. Free Press Unlimited believes it is important to develop the capacity of media professionals in the fields of digital, physical and psycho-social safety by providing (online/offline) training and coaching, and fostering knowledge exchanges. This will contribute to a more sustainable and resilient media environment.

This page contains several examples of safety trainings that Free Press Unlimited and its partner organisations offer or have offered. These may include both one-off trainings and continuous trainings.

Riesgo Cruzado: safety trainings in Central America

Central America is one of the most dangerous regions in the world for journalists. Many countries in the region have to deal with pronounced problems of violence and (organised) crime. Police and military forces tend to respond with excessive use of force, contributing to increased levels of violence. Impunity and corruption add to states’ deficient response to crime and homicides. Consequently, the environment in which journalists operate has turned increasingly hostile. Journalists do not only have to face threats coming from criminal groups, but also from the government whenever they are covering corruption practices. Consequently, in recent years the region has experienced an alarming rise in the number of murders of, and attacks against, journalists.

Since 2016, Free Press Unlimited’s partner Fundación Latitudes has been providing trainings to journalists and human rights defenders working in high-risk environments in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua, so they can minimise the risks they face when covering social violence, politics, and organised crimes. The Riesgo Cruzado course is holistic in the sense that it integrates the physical, psycho-social and (to a lesser degree) digital dimensions of safety. Initially, the trainings were targeted towards journalists working in the cities, but a rural training has also been set up in order to increase the resilience of journalists working in rural or remote areas. Over time, the training has also gotten a legal element, as in a three-day programme journalists can also learn about the media laws that protect them and and the legal limitations to press freedom. This can help defend themselves from legal harassment.

Read our stories

Safety training for journalists in Central America (23 March 2018)
‘This can save our lives’: safety training for El Salvador’s local journalists (13 September 2019)
Crime scene investigation training for journalists in Central America (5 December 2019)
‘I was being targeted’: In Central America, journalists risk it all (3 February 2020)

Totem: online learning platform for digital safety

Digital security has never been more important for journalists and activists. Threats often come from states, that gather extensive information about journalists such as their whereabouts, networks or sources. Authorities can then use this intelligence to intimidate the media. Journalists and media organisations often lack the awareness and capacity effectively to protect themselves, their information and their sources. If private online communication of these journalists ends up in the wrong hands, it may be used against them or their sources.

Because of this, Free Press Unlimited and Greenhost created the online learning platform Totem. On this platform, journalists and activists can learn how to apply tools and tactics for digital safety and privacy in their work. An increasing amount of courses available on the platform, amongst which the following which are (also) available in English (EN), but in some cases also in French (FR), Spanish (ES), Farsi (FA), Arabic (AR), and Russian (RU).

  • How the internet works
    The internet is a complex and diverse infrastructure. We break down the fundamentals.
    In EN, FR, ES, FA, AR
  • Phishing attacks
    Learn how to prevent phishing by recognising an attack, and what to do if you realise you have been phished.
    In EN, FR, ES, FA, AR, RU
  • Secure messaging apps
    Messaging apps have become a key communication tool in our daily lives. How to choose the ones that are safest for you?
    In EN, FR, ES, FA, AR, RU
  • Secure passwords
    Passwords are your first line of defence against anyone who would like to hack into these accounts.
    In EN, FR, ES, FA, AR, RU
  • Know your trolls
    Identify the abuse you are receiving online and who may be behind it, and learn some strategies to be better prepared.
    Developed by IWMF
    In EN, FR, ES, AR, RU
  • How to protect your identity online
    The aim of this course is to help you adopt effective tools and practical strategies to protect your anonymity and that of the people you care about when using the Internet.
    In EN, AR
  • Secure your devices
    The goal of this course is to understand some of the key threats to your devices (phone, computer, laptop), both physical and digital, and explore strategies to help mitigate the risks.
    In EN, AR, RU
  • How to bypass internet censorship
    This course explains how to stop censorship stopping you, and how you can improve your online privacy and security.
    In EN, ES, FA, AR
  • Keep it private
    Learn how the personal information you are posting online can be used by others to threaten and attack you, and which strategies you can employ to be better prepared.
    Developed by IWMF
    In EN, FR, ES, AR
  • Social media research
    How to discover and verify information posted on the social media platform Instagram.
    In EN, FA
  • Desk research
    Find documents and numbers, optimise your Google Search results, and search for specific courses.
    In EN, FA
  • Field research
    We address how field research can benefit you and discuss risks in conducting field investigations in a repressive environment.
    In EN, FA
  • Human rights documentation
    Human rights documentation is a way of capturing, preserving, and sharing stories of human rights abuses to seek redress for the harm, hold perpetrators of abuse accountable and secure the collective memories of the past for the present and future.
    In EN
  • Risk analysis
    Working as a journalist entails risks. This course is designed to teach you to assess your risk in a comprehensive manner by addressing digital, psycho-emotional, physical and legal risks.
    In EN, ES

Money Trail: digital safety training for financial investigative journalists

Investigative financial journalism is often difficult, costly and dangerous. It is also essential: it brings to light crimes that can hinder economic growth in developing countries and increase equality. Money Trail, implemented by Free Press Unlimited, Oxfam Novib, Finance Uncovered and, focuses on investigative journalists in Asia, Europe and Africa. The aim of the project is to increase the capacity of journalists to produce stories on money laundering, corruption and illicit financing: crimes causing countries throughout the world to lose billions of dollars.

In Money Trail, journalists are supported in uncovering financial wrongdoing through the provision of training, a grants mechanism and campaigning around published stories. In a series of six training sessions, journalists are equipped with the skills and tools to uncover illegal financial practices. Free Press Unlimited contributes to the training by teaching participants how they can enhance their digital security. Investigative journalists learn how to keep laptops, phones and other devices secure and how to keep their investigation and sources safe.

Read our stories

‘When it comes to digital security, you’re as weak as the weakest link’ (20 January 2020)

Pyscho-social support for female journalists in Pakistan

In recent years there has been a rapid decline in media freedom in Pakistan, which has manifested itself in censorship. Conversely, it has also led to the exercise of self-censorship as the only viable option to protect oneself. The nature of threats that journalists face has also changed, as journalists increasingly face online harassment and digital threats. In its 2019 report entitled Fostering Open Spaces in Pakistan, Free Press Unlimited’s partner Digital Rights Foundation found that 55 percent of 60 women information practitioners from across Pakistan have witnessed online abuse and harassment. 91 percent feel that abuse is gendered and personal in nature and 85 percent mentioned that the abuse was hurled by seemingly fake accounts.

Online harassment has a tremendous impact on one’s psycho-social safety and mental well-being as well, which is why Digital Rights Foundation organised a mental health retreat in 2019. The retreat allowed the participants to de-stress, but they also reflected on their daily stressors in the field of journalism with a gender focus, sharing experiences on topics such as workplace harassment, trolling, and censorship and other curbs on the freedom of expression. This retreat underlined the importance of psycho-social safety and helped to strengthen the network of women journalists as a support mechanism.

Safety training in El Salvador (Fundación Latitudes)
Credit: Fundación Latitudes

Trainings by other organisations

See here for an overview of safety trainings that are provided by other organisations.