The UN is calling on better protection for Twitter journalists, but will anything change?
The UN's recommendations may not see any tangible results anytime soon. (AFP/File)
With an evolving digital world, citizen reporting has become a way to pass on a lot of information about unreachable locations. The down side? Information online provides another venue for attackers to target whistleblowers.
A UN report in September urged nations to offer more protection to whistleblowers, including Twitter users who divulge important information on social media like Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently.
While Twitter is often used as the go-to platform for on-the-ground reporting, very few protections are in place for users endangering themselves to disclose the news. And chances are, UN policies won't be changing anything in the near future.
In the General Assembly memo, the UN first made sure to establish that, while social media users may not have traditionally been considered journalists, civilians often fulfill that role in locations difficult to access.
It cited the Council of Europe's definition of a journalist that clearly included citizen reporting: “any natural or legal person who is regularly or professionally engaged in the collection and dissemination of information to the public via any means of mass communication.”
Here's the catch. Almost all of the UN General Assembly's recommendations require the nations themselves to implement better state laws. Convincing the Syrian government not to kill their journalists who report on regime airstrikes doesn't seem plausible anytime soon.
International human rights laws include the freedom of information, but they aren't being followed. The UN's recommendations say nothing about creating stricter punishments on violations.
So what's the good news? More organizations are becoming aware of the dangers facing online journalists, and they're finding ways to protect themselves. The Committee to Protect Journalists and other cybersecurity organizations have been heavily promoting encryption and anonymity, practices that have been promoted by the UN.
And digital journalism is constantly changing. The more reporters understand how to conduct their work, the more tangible protections will become.
By Hayat Norimine
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