The Balkan Investigative Reporting Network held four online digital security training sessions on December 14 and 15 for around 20 journalism students and journalists from media outlets in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia.
The goal of the sessions was to equip participants with practical tips and tools on how to stay safe online. They were told how to protect a computer and how to create strong passwords, as well as how to avoid surveillance, how to counter malware attacks, how to safely communicate with sources and how to handle devices in courts, airports and public spaces. They were also taught about ethical considerations in the digital sphere.
The trainer was Milica Stojanovic, an award-winning BIRN journalist and digital security expert. She has also been running digital security sessions at BIRN’s Summer School of Investigative Reporting since 2022.
Stojanovic talked about the importance of using secure communication channels that have end-to-end encryption as standard default mode, meaning communications are completely secure.
She also warned participants about dangerous behaviour on social media that can endanger both journalists and their sources.
“If you are traveling for work, especially to meet sensitive groups of people, you should never post photos on social media, especially not with the location, name of hotels, etc. You are journalists, not celebrities, and dangerous behaviour on social media can endanger not only you but your sensitive sources and others you interview as well,” she said.
Stojanovic also introduced the participants to browsing security and document security, urging them to respect some ground rules such as regularly backing up devices and having several copies of important documents on at least two different devices.
BIRN has been training journalists across south-east Europe about these topics for several years to raise awareness about the importance of staying safe online and about the concepts of secure internal communications and safety while searching and browsing the internet. BIRN also has daily coverage of cyber security across south-east European countries.
This workshop is part of BIRN’s project ‘Paper Trail to Better Governance’, funded by the Austrian Development Agency (ADA), the operational unit of the Austrian Development Cooperation since 2013. Among other things, the project aims to increase the capacities of journalists, media outlets and journalism and communications students in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia.