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News organizations and journalists around the world have seen an increase in threats and attacks against themselves and their work. In a recent publication, Mathias Felipe de Lima Santos (ILLC / Media Studies, UvA) and Lucia Mesquita (Dublin City University) investigate how journalists in Latin America deal with this situation by assuming new roles.

Through in-depth interviews with Latin American journalists from small- and medium-sized news outlets, the researchers looked at which safety measures are being adopted. Their findings show that these journalists incorporate security measures into their daily routines in order to safeguard their work, independence, sources, and their own lives. ‘These professionals must deal with new roles and activities that traditional journalists are not used to, thereby blurring the boundaries of journalism’, de Lima Santos explains. The safety measures vary from adopting new digital security skills to taking self-defense classes.

Cyberattacks and digital harassment

The interviewees described four areas in which security measures are needed: digital, physical, legal, and psychological. ‘Digital threats are among the most significant concerns of these practitioners,’ says de Lima Santos, ‘varying from cyberattacks on news portals to shutdowns, hate speech and digital harassment. Some news organizations now hire digital security specialists to deal with such threats and vulnerabilities.’

The study also shows that small- and medium-sized media organizations do not enjoy the same opportunities as large media organizations for securing the safety of their journalists. Particularly smaller news outlets which conduct investigative reporting are more likely to suffer attacks and threats. Safety measures are important to protect journalists and their organizations, but they are not the solution for the problem, the researchers conclude. ‘There is a need for politicians, educators, and civil society agents to work together in order to safeguard journalism and fight structural violence.’

Publication details

Lucia Mesquita and Mathias Felipe de Lima Santos: Blurred Boundaries of Journalism to Guarantee Safety: Approaches of Resistance and Resilience for Investigative Journalism in Latin America, Journalism Studies, 16 March 2023.