Physical Security Support
Online violence can have physical consequences for women journalists. The following guidance can assist you if you have been doxxed and/or have received threats of violence that cause you to fear for your safety.
Steps to Take in an Emergency
If you fear for your physical safety because of an incident of doxxing or an online threat, the following steps may be helpful to consider:
- Contact your newsroom and let your editor or manager know that you are concerned about an online threat and inquire about any possible support they could offer.
- Review the threat to see if you can obtain more information on the attacker. Assess the possibility that the person threatening you is local or nearby. Ask a friend or colleague for help with this if you feel unable to do so.
- If you fear for your physical safety in your home, arrange alternative accommodation. This could be a hotel or a family or friend’s home. If possible, speak with your newsroom to see how they can support you.
- Prior to leaving your home, let someone know when you are leaving and where you are going. Avoid posting content about your move or new location on social media.
- If you use a vehicle, take a route that is out of the ordinary. This will help determine if you are being followed.
- Once you have left, ask a colleague, friend, or family member to go to your home and see if anyone is hanging around outside your residence or whether there have been any changes, such as damage to property.
- You should leave the area for 24 hours and then reassess the situation. If the threat continues and feels credible then, in some cases, a permanent relocation should be considered. If this is the case, speak with your newsroom to see what support they can offer.
- If you no longer feel you are at risk, you may wish to return to your home. You should inform your manager, a colleague or family and friends that you are back so they know where to locate you in case of an incident. You may wish to install alarms and cameras at your home as an extra security measure.
- You may wish to report the threat to law enforcement. If you do, and if it is possible, ask to speak with an officer who has experience with online crime. If you work for a media outlet, you should speak with your editor or manager to see what support they can offer when reporting the incident to the police.
If you are concerned that you may be doxxed or physically threatened, it can be important to put steps in place so you are better protected should something happen.
- Speak to your newsroom and ask whether they have any guidance in place to protect you in case of a doxxing or other physical security incident.
- If possible, work with your newsroom to create a security plan in advance of an incident. If your newsroom doesn’t have protocols yet for this kind of situation, you can refer them to these ones or these ones. Be sure you know whom to contact in case of an emergency. If you are a freelance journalist, speak with colleagues or a journalist network about making a security plan.
- Flag any possible incidents of online attacks, including doxxing, in advance. Carry out a risk assessment for each story and include digital threats as part of your security planning.
- Prepare for doxxing in advance by protecting your online information. Read PEN America’s manual on how to do this.
- Plan where you will go if you need to leave your home in case of an incident.
- If you are concerned about your physical safety and the security of your home and can afford to, you may wish to install alarms or cameras in your building.
- Plan all possible exit routes from your home. This is to prepare you in case you need to leave your house quickly but are unable to leave via your normal exit.
- If you are concerned for your physical safety, it can be a good idea to vary your routine, for example by taking different routes to work.
The following organizations may be able to help journalists with relocation as well as other forms of immediate and long-term assistance in the face of physical danger.
The International Women’s Media Foundation
The International Women’s Media Foundation (IWMF) is a nonprofit working internationally to support women journalists. They are able to provide relocation support through their Emergency Fund.
The Committee to Protect Journalists
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is an American independent non-governmental organization. It can support journalists with relocation support. Apply directly via their emergency email address or via the CPJ representative in your region.
The Rory Peck Trust
The Rory Peck Trust is an international NGO that supports freelance journalists and their families worldwide. The organization has a fund that can cover the costs of relocation.
Free Press Unlimited
Free Press Unlimited is a non-governmental organization based in the Netherlands. They can provide financial assistance to cover the costs of relocation.
Reporters without Borders
Reporters without Borders is an independent NGO that can help threatened journalists find a place of refuge.