The Coalition For Women In Journalism (CFWIJ) organised a Mentorship Accelerator for Digital Security and Safety at Karachi's Bahria University. CFWIJ’s team led the accelerator to equip aspiring journalists and other attendees with tools and methods to navigate online spaces and reclaim free speech in the digital sphere.
CFWIJ Global Coordinator Luavut Zahid began the session with an overview of the threats female journalists face online and the kind of risks they can end up confronting when in the field. She spoke about the cost of putting oneself out there as a journalist and being bullied, harassed, and targeted in cyberspace.
Digital spaces can often prove to be extremely risky for female journalists, where an online threat can find its way into the physical world with unfortunate ease, she told the participants.
“Digital security is something all journalists need to be more serious about because of how digital our work itself is becoming,” Zahid said discussing the need for female journalists to be mindful of how real the threats online can become.
The session then steered towards participants getting insight about the vulnerability of their public data on the internet. They were given an understanding of one’s information available online and the ways in which it can be accessed and misused.
“You have to be careful about the information you’re putting on the internet. What you write and say in cyberspace can be used against you at any given point in your life, and it stays there forever,” she said, explaining to the future journalists it is better to be safe than sorry with respect to one's digital security.
Participants at the session were given a demonstration about the safe use of social media apps, navigating their settings, and learn digital safety hacks, including two-factor authentication, that everyone, particularly journalists, must adopt.
“We need to develop good digital habits as we go along. Many of us don't even think about how we compromise our own security as journalists, including our online interactions,” Zahid told the students.
When talking about the threats female journalists face in online spaces and what they should be doing instead, Zahid said: “Women journalists face unprecedented levels of threats in Pakistan, especially online. But quitting said spaces is the worst thing you can do. We must equip ourselves with the right tools to stay safe and fight back.”
During the session, CFWIJ Researcher Rabia Mushtaq discussed her work documenting threats for the organisation.
“Our report from the first half of 2019 shows that 20% of all cases of threats were tied to online harassment. We see an unprecedented level of abuse against journalists, especially female journalists, in countries like Pakistan," Mushtaq said, adding that "it has never been as important to keep security in mind alongside the many other things that journalists consider when they work on their stories".
“Women journalists are more vulnerable on the internet. Therefore, the need for being informed, aware and equipped with safety and security is the only right option,” she added.