close up of Joel Simon speaking to group

CPJ Director Speaks to BBG, VOA About Protecting Journalists

man at the head of a table talks as those around the table listen and take notes

Committee to Protect Journalists Executive Director Joel Simon visited the Broadcasting Board of Governors yesterday to speak with senior editors at the Voice of America and senior executives from the International Broadcasting Bureau about the challenges of keeping journalists safe in today’s media environment.

Threats to press have changed dramatically in the past few decades, from a time when identifying oneself as a journalist served as a protection. Today, Simon said, it is a liability.

Changes in communication technology have had a tremendous impact on journalists’ safety, Simon explained. Not only are journalists keeping their notes, reports and sources in digital form, they are transmitting that data digitally. Interception of this information can put a journalist in grave danger in certain regions. The most effective way to keep data safe, Simon explained, was by using a pen and paper. All other methods are vulnerable.

Technological changes are also responsible for the changes in who can serve as a journalist. With more and more people having access to sophisticated communication and distribution tools, the risks are changing. For CPJ, the definition of a journalist hasn’t changed, Simon explained. But he is finding that CPJ is advocating not only for freedom of the press, but increasingly for freedom of expression.

For the editors in the room, the discussion provided an opportunity to share best practices for keeping journalists and correspondents safe. With reporters in some of the most press-restricted regions in the world, this is a priority for the agency. An updated timeline of threats to BBG’s journalists is available here.