What is media safety? | Media Safety | DW | 07.12.2023
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What is media safety?

Media safety focuses on the safety and security of journalists and media outlets at risk, offering them support and comprehensive protective measures.

Independent media outlets worldwide, and those who work for them, face increasing threats, all aimed at silencing critical voices. We have long supported free media and know that pressure comes in various forms: reporters are attacked or their homes are raided by police; outlets spend large sums to counter unjustified lawsuits, and intelligence agencies use spyware to tap journalists’ cell phones and monitor their conversations. These and other abuses are often accompanied by disinformation and defamation campaigns.

As a result, media safety is more than "just" physical safety. It involves creating a secure environment to protect media workers’ mental health and preserve privacy and digital autonomy. In many cases, preventative measures can be more successful than emergency responses; measures range from coaching, training and introducing crisis protocols to preparing escape routes and safe places.

Threats can be as diverse as the victims and perpetrators. While authoritarian states aim to silence independent voices, the free press has other enemies, as well. In many countries, organized crime groups or influential businesses want their activities to go unnoticed; religious and political fanatism also jeopardize autonomous media.

However, individual journalists are not always affected to the same extent. DW Akademie therefore focuses especially on journalists who are even more vulnerable: those from ethnic minorities, and female journalists who are often subject to misogynistic attacks.

Journalists located in remote regions play an important role in the fight for press freedom by countering the emergence of so-called “information deserts.” Still, those far from the capitals are rarely adequately prepared or protected and have limited access to support programs.

Media in exile are a special case for advancing media safety because many governments persecute critical journalists beyond national borders. This makes safety crucial from the outset so that journalists living abroad can provide the public with independent information. It is important to note that exiled media are not just a temporary phenomenon but have "come to stay." As a result, media from countries such as Afghanistan, Myanmar and Russia require sustainable, long-term security; DW Akademie is helping them develop this.

DW Akademie’s approach to media safety

We believe that media professionals should be able to work without fear. Independent information is fundamental to all, especially in countries where freedom and the rule of law are increasingly restricted. The need for independent information is especially great in places where it hardly exists. DW Akademie therefore regards journalists’ safety and security as key to free media and democracy, and advocates this at an international level, as well.

DW Akademie takes a comprehensive approach to media safety, and focuses not just on journalists themselves but also on the environment they work in. Newsrooms need to build a culture of safety to help their reporters and freelancers avoid dangers, and to strengthen the outlets' viability in the long run. We bring civil society actors together and help create support systems that those at risk can rely on.

DW Akademie sees media safety as having five dimensions: physical, psychological, legal, digital and financial. These are interrelated but, depending on the context, can vary in importance. The priority may at times be to provide lawyers to defend journalists against unjustified legal action; at other times digital safety may be more urgent, training reporters to protect themselves from being spied on. Therapy sessions can help journalists work through the violence they have experienced, and so strengthen their mental health. Financial support, such as scholarships, may also be a priority, to help enable exiled journalists to make a fresh start.

DW Akademie, as an international media development organization, works with partners around the globe to strengthen all five media safety dimensions. We focus particularly on countries where media freedom is at great risk but where there is still time to maneuver.

DW Akademie therefore strengthens:

  • a "culture of safety" in newsrooms so that they can effectively protect their reporters and freelancers
  • journalists’ ability to defend themselves against attacks of all kinds, including legal, physical, digital, psychological and financial ones
  • the creation of safe spaces, and support for media outlets in exile
  • the cooperation between civil society organizations, media outlets and governments to jointly create a safe environment for independent journalism