World Press freedom day 2021: A look at the safety of journalists online

World Press Freedom Day is celebrated every 3rd May, a day that is dedicated to the freedom of the press. According to UNESCO, World Press freedom day 2021 highlights the need for governments and people across the world to ”respect their commitment to press freedom and is also a day of reflection among media professionals about issues of press freedom and professional ethics.”

Also read: Updates of the Ministry of ICT’s achievements in Uganda through NITA-U

A reflection on creating safe spaces on World Press freedom day 2021

Journalists face countless threats as part of their profession to deliver the facts to the rest of the world. The threats not only exist in their physical spaces but have slowly shifted to digital spaces as growing advancements in technology have made them equally unsafe.

The press has become even more vulnerable facing heavy criticism from governments and people with many of them suffering online attacks, hate abuse, cyberbullying, public shaming and intimidation and threats. Digital spaces are quite easy to manipulate giving malicious people the freedom to harass and bully journalists online with little to no repercussions.

On World Press freedom day 2021, the world shows solidarity with journalists, photo-journalists and all associated with the media who brave the toughest conditions to disseminate information and bring news from across the world to the phones and homes of people.

Malicious people who want to exploit the masses will hack into the press. Some people use the accounts of journalists to spread false information or to find out what the journalists know and prevent them from revealing it.

Surveillance, data storage capabilities and digital attack technologies are becoming more sophisticated, less expensive and more pervasive, making journalists increasingly vulnerable to digital attacks from both state and non-state actors.[.

With the widespread availability of surveillance software and hardware in a number of states across multiple regions, broadly defined legislative acts have been seen by some as working to silence digital dissent, prosecute whistleblowers and expand arbitrary surveillance across multiple digital platforms.

Efforts have been made to ensure the safety of journalists online with a variety of initiatives in different countries. In late 2016, the International Press Institute launched the OnTheLine database, a project that aims to systematically monitor the online harassment of journalists as a response to their reporting. As of July 2017, the project had collected 1,065 instances of online harassment in the two countries (Turkey and Austria) in which the project collected data.

Social media platforms like Facebook have also taken a stand against the harassment of journalists online, creating safe spaces for them. In February this year, Facebook announced that it was working on new features that will protect journalists from cyber attacks in different countries within and outside Africa.

Read also: Facebook to protect journalists with new features that will keep them safe

In addition, the social media platform also offered registered journalists the option to extend these protections to their linked Instagram accounts as well as access to CrowdTangle Search and the ability to apply for Facebook’s Blue Badge Verification.

Read more: The reasons why Facebook remains shutdown in Uganda despite complaints

Read more: The ruin of WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange.

READ: Facebook to protect journalists with new features that will keep them safe

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