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Big BrotherA guide by Transparency International for journalists throughout the world has been written to help protect their work and fulfil their mission. KAYLEE FERREIRA reports. The guide can be accessed here

MANY veteran journalists, and younger journalists too, surely notice that we are being bombarded again with mentions of Watergate.

Books like George Orwell’s 1984 are on display in bookstores and an air of danger to freedom of speech and freedom of the press is spreading slowly like a dark cloud over the Western hemisphere, raising old fears.

When a serving American president accuses a former president of surveillance, when he prevents media outlets access to press conferences – so far always granted and taken for granted – and when he incessantly accuses the media of being the country’s number one enemy, it isn’t surprising that memories of President Nixon surface and even Republican Senators such as John McCain express fear for the future of democracy.

Senator McCain is not alone. Many journalists I speak with express concern for what is ahead for freedom of the press.

And recent news about the CIA tells us that almost all encryption systems can be compromised if someone has the perseverance to crack them.

We are on the way to envisioning a Dystopian world we cannot even get too complacent about our own information or privacy.

The good news is that it is possible to make it difficult for people to intercept your emails, text messages or phone calls.

You can take measures to make the lives much harder for those who want to uncover your sources and the information being revealed to you.

Of course, the degree of effort you’re prepared to take to protect your privacy, your sources’ anonymity and your data’s safety need to be commensurate to the likelihood of a real threat, whether hacking or spying.

“The old-fashioned promises – I’m not going to reveal my source’s identity or give up my notes – are kind of empty if you’re not taking steps to protect your information digitally”, says Barton Gellman of the Washington Post, whose source, Edward Snowden, helped uncover the scope of American and British surveillance.

So, what is it that needs to be done to ensure that a journalist’s sources and data are secure and sound?

Secure device applications and functions. This is known as reducing the ‘attack surface’, that is, limiting installed apps to the bare minimum, installing only from trusted sources, selecting apps that require minimal rights, keeping the system fully patched and updated and having security controls based on best-practice on the device.

Isolate your devices and their environment. For example, the physical isolation of a computer for the purpose of checking files or the use of prepaid mobile devices.

Act cautiously both in the digital and real world. This has more to do with common sense than with software. For example, never write down the name of the source, certainly not on an app or any document that’s stored on your computer, and most certainly not on anything stored in the cloud.


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Alexander Papenberg

Looking for Sean Dorney. We were journalists in Port Moresby in 1984, Sean at the ABC and me at the Times of Papua New Guinea. I'd like to get in contact with Sean.

Alexander has been put in touch with Sean - KJ

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