Thursday, December 7, 2023

Presentation by George Christenson at the World Press Freedom Day Symposium by the GPU


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Sailu Bah reporting George Christenson, a media consultant made the following presentationGeorge Christenson at a symposium held at Kairaba Beach Hotel in commemoration of World Press Freedom Day: I have been asked to give my thoughts on the topic, “Safety and Security of Journalists in the Digital Age”.I will take it that the main thrust of the discussion will be online security, but as a victim of a still unresolved physical attack, it is only fair to reflect on this aspect of safety and security. Whether we are Citizen Journalists, Journalists reporting on Politics or in Conflict situations, we stand a great deal of risk of physical attack resulting in injury and sometime death. Last Year according to Al Jazeera about 120 media staff were killed on assignment. I don’t think we have to discuss the obscenity of such a horrific number at this gathering but suffice to say that it is very serious. Numbers injured ?? running into the hundreds. As far as I know there is no one piece of International Legislation, I stand to be corrected, that sets out to protect Journalists. However ALL Human Rights Conventions cover the protection of journalists fully. Articles 4, 5, 6 and 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights [protect journalists]. Perhaps the perception that there is inadequate security and safety can be ascribed to: 1.    The interpretation and understanding of the various articles and charters. We need constant “refresher” courses on these charters and the protections and obligations they afford us. 2.    The patently slow and unsatisfactory manner the states and courts take to interpret the Articles. As a non legal luminary I leave it to persons more equipped than my self to dilate on that particular topic. All I know is something has to change and it better changes soon and fast. Now then in this age where the internet dominates so much of our lives, online safety is itself a new critical factor in the digital age. For journalists this has emerged into a dangerous game. Undemocratic regimes, and intolerant corporations all want to know what we are doing, with who and how. They want to know what we write, who gives us confidential information and what we record. Be warned! Everything we say will be used to track us down and our contacts. With this comes an incredible and sustained violent assault against us the journalists. Let’s not think it’s only Repressive regimes that are out to get us. Edward Snowdon and Glen Greenwald have given us a great insight into the murky world of spying where state security is being hired out to Corporations who have their own particular agenda. With the click of a keyboard one can be put on a NO-FLY list, or a PERSON OF INTEREST list. So what protection are we afforded by the internet? Well there are several ways and means that one can take to keep oneself safe on the internet. Effectively we want to: 1.    Minimise our footprints—Be seen by only those we want to see us. 2.    Secure our communications—Exactly what it says, to be seen ,heard and read by only those we give permissions to. 3.    Keep the identity and location of our correspondents private and undetectable as far as possible. There is no such thing as 100% security [online]. Knowing how to protect yourself online is just as important as knowing your law or how to operate in a hostile environment. Using freely downloadable programs and apps, you can block intruders, mask your identity online, set up secure communications, and transfer and store any amount of data without anyone being the wiser. This is not the forum to discuss the best or efficacy of certain software applications best suited for journalism security. One thing is for sure is that far more research and development is needed to produce a sustainable and reasonable level of safety for journalists. A cursory glance at the curricula of various journalist  institutions shows that online safety and security is  haphazardly programmed for a couple of days in which some well meaning amateur like yours truly is asked to give a talk. This is a subject that needs far more resources and attention than it is being presently given. We look forward to the department of Cyber security at the GPU school of Journalism, or at least have Cyber security as a core subject in the next year’s offering to prospective journalists. Only then can we begin to feel the Messenger has some protection afforded to him or her. Hope it makes some sense!!]]>

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