CPJ launches secure digital platform to submit reports of attacks against journalists and press freedom

Using the SecureDrop system, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) launched a digital platform that journalists and other people around the world can use to share information with them or to report violations of press freedom.

SecureDrop is an open source system for sending encrypted information that “allows for secure and anonymous submissions” to newspapers or other organizations, CPJ explained in a statement. SecureDrop is financed by the Freedom of the Press Foundation (FPF).

“In a time of unprecedented, technologically-mediated threats to journalism both online and offline, CPJ’s adoption of this state-of-the-art system will help us protect journalists who need help the most,” the statement added. “There has never been a safer way to tell CPJ about press freedom violations anywhere in the world—or request direct support when you’re under fire for your reporting.”

For Carlos Lauría, CPJ’s senior program coordinator for the Americas, this platform will have an important impact for the journalists in the region taking into account the “evermore frequent” cases of surveillance reported to and by CPJ.

“We have documented issues of surveillance and the impact that this has on sources in the region,” Lauría told the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas. “For example, in Colombia it is a very common practice that has been widely used by intelligence services to monitor the communications of opposition politicians, high court judges, labor unionists and many journalists. The ‘chuzadas’ scandal only provided evidence of this.”

Lauría emphasized situations like those that take place in Venezuela, Ecuador and Cuba where he said it “is a common practice.” He also stressed that the issue of surveillance is not unique to state agencies, but that it is also used by private actors.

While CPJ has not learned of retaliations against the journalists that reach out to them, they consider digital security to be an issue that journalists should embrace. In fact, a recent study noted that journalists in Latin America do not have enough training on digital security, which is why they do not take protective measures.

To launch the CPJ instance of SecureDrop, members of CPJ’s San Francisco-based Technology Program worked for months with FPF. After being tested, the system was physically transported to CPJ’s New York headquarters.

The organization explained in its statement that to be able to contact them, users will need to download the latest version of Tor Browser and head to the CPJ’s SecureDrop onion address. [See detailed instructions about the process]

“We live in a world where ubiquitous government surveillance forces journalists to think and act like spies. Even comparatively free states like the U.S. and U.K. engage in mass surveillance, and many other states use technology to harm journalists and suppress journalism,” CPJ said. “In this environment, tools like SecureDrop will continue to be necessary for the effective practice of journalism without putting reporters or their sources at risk.”

Note from the editor: This story was originally published by the Knight Center’s blog Journalism in the Americas, the predecessor of LatAm Journalism Review.