As information warfare becomes a hotter topic, journalists have become bigger targets for repression and even assassination, a troubling trend that is spreading across the globe, reports veteran war correspondent Don North.
By Don North
Amid a surge in violence against journalists, two Paris-based press-freedom organizations have launched a project aimed at securing information collected by endangered journalists and continuing their work if they are imprisoned or killed.
The Forbidden Stories project is the brainchild of Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and Freedom Voices Network as a counter-strike against repressive regimes and other powerful forces that engage in intimidation of independent journalists.
The project is a response to a global surge in violence against journalists, with 42 reporters killed this year and another 183 journalists in prison. More than 800 journalists have been killed in connection with their work in the past ten years.
“This project will send a very clear message to oppressive governments that if they touch a journalist anywhere in the world, many others will be ready to support and follow up their story,” said Can Dundar, a Turkish journalist supporting Forbidden Stories.
“The goal of this initiative is to use journalism to defend journalism and to guarantee access to freely and independently reported information,” said Christophe Deloire, secretary general of RSF. “Through Forbidden Voices, we send a strong message to press freedom’s predators throughout the world.”
Under the project, journalists who feel threatened will be able to use encrypted communications to protect sensitive information and put their ongoing investigations in a safe place. Their stories will be secured and not published without their agreement. However, if something happens to them, Forbidden Stories will be in a position to finish their investigative stories in accordance with the journalists’ instructions and to disseminate the information widely thanks to a network of media committed to defend the freedom to inform. In other words, the Forbidden Stories project seeks to ensure that reporters’ work will survive even if they do not.
Simultaneous to the launch of Forbidden Stories last week was the release of the “2017 Global Impunity Index” by the Committee to Protect Journalists, calculating the unsolved murders of journalists over the past decade. This year, new murders occurred in half the 12 countries on the index. Somalia leads the index list, which also includes Iraq, Syria, the Philippines, South Sudan, Mexico, Pakistan, Brazil, Russia, Bangladesh, Nigeria and India.