O’Brien aims at protecting online journalists

Danny O'Brien led the Nov. 10  Liberation Technology seminar on the topic, “Reports from the Bleeding Edge: What Journalism in Syria, China and Iran tell us about Silicon Valley's Future”. O'Brien is the Internet Advocacy Coordinator at Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), which was founded in New York in 1981 with the aim of defending individual journalists worldwide.

O'Brien argued in the seminar that after focusing on mainstream journalists for more than a decade, CPJ started its Internet program based on the realization that a considerable number of people who are jailed for their journalistic work worldwide are online journalists. CPJ’s Internet program is aimed at protecting them through their involvement in their individual cases, research and lobbying. Through these efforts CPJ hopes to create an online ecosystem that is generally safe for most users, and for journalists who use the online medium.

This wide-ranging talk took us through different kinds of threats that journalists face in the online space including attacks against their websites, lack of legal protections, and physical dangers that journalists face based on the available information about themselves and their sources. O'Brien argued that while there are tools being developed to protect activists that could potentially be used by journalists, such tools are rarely used since journalists do not think of the threats to their work until they actually get into trouble. CPJ is committed to making the online environment safe for all journalists, rather than just providing training to journalists on precautionary measures.

He discussed some of the issues that CPJ has been advocating among large internet corporations and governments, and the strategy of enabling journalists themselves to meet with such agencies to make a persuasive case.