Center opened to assist journalists in troubled areas

At a time when journalists around the world face increasing threats of violence, intimidation, and internet surveillance, IREX is launching a new program to provide training and support in physical and digital security to journalists and newsrooms.

At a ceremony featuring Jane Zimmerman, a U.S. deputy assistant secretary of State, journalists from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, the rector of the University of Central America and IREX, the journalism advocacy group, signed a memorandum of understanding. The document officially launched the first of three planned centers of the Regional Journalist Security Network, to be located at the university.

The rector of the university in San Salvador, Andreu Oliva, spoke of the importance of the project to Central America.

“These days the exercise of journalism in El Salvador and Latin America faces new challenges and threats. Today’s launch of the Regional Journalist Security Network…is excellent news,” he said.

Ms. Zimmerman reiterated the United States government’s support for free expression. “These hubs are designed to address the threats journalists face in their work, providing training to journalists in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras on how to work safely in dangerous environments and online. They’ll learn to cope with the stress that comes from working in hostile, unpredictable environments,” she said.

In 2012, 70 journalists were killed. In numerous countries, governments routinely intercept journalists’ email, mobile phones, and social media accounts and use this information against journalists, their sources, and their families.

Additional regional centers will be launched in Kenya and Georgia and together with the center at university, they will help develop more local security trainers, assist journalists and newsrooms under threat, help equip journalists with the tools they need to protect themselves, and encourage solidarity to fight these threats.

Mark Whitehouse, vice president of IREX noted, “Promoting the digital and physical security of journalists is a natural and vitally needed complement to IREX’s support for free and open media worldwide. Unfortunately we see growing threats to professional and citizen journalists across a wide spectrum of countries and the media development community has increasingly integrated journalist security into its support. We are pleased that the United States Government is committed to this effort through this pilot project.”

The Regional Journalist Security Network is backed financially by the US Department of State Bureau for Democracy, Human Rights. The Department of State has committed $1 million to the project.

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