Cuban journalists have new security guide to fight physical, psychological and digital threats

Cuban journalists confronting detentions, cyberattacks, blocking of their webpages and other aggressions now have a new manual to help address their physical, mental and digital needs.

The Institute for War and Peace Reporting recently published the “Holistic Security Guide for Cuban Journalists,” which is available for free download in Spanish on its site.

The manual was designed to provide training against attacks that journalists in Cuba frequently encounter and one of the main purposes of creating it was to offer support for these journalists and their work.

The guide, aimed at journalists and media outlets on the island, can be used by independent journalists as well as by any other journalist who wants to do their job more safely.

In addition to promoting safe working methods, it seeks to promote cooperation between journalists and media outlets that could lead to reporting aggressions before international organizations.

According to the manual, the objective is to strengthen the abilities for prevention, self-protection and security, so that journalists can work freely in the country.

The guides also teaches journalists how to analyze risks using a threat model. It gives a series of questions to ask to be able to act against a threat. The questions are designed to create a map of the potential people involved, the threats that could materialize and the probability that they could occur.

The document addresses four essential security issues concerning journalists in the different contexts they work within: physical security, psychological security, digital security, as well as the law and international support.

In the case of physical security, for example, it recommends some strategies upon receiving official citations or detentions.

Regarding psychological security, it offers tools that journalists can use when seeking psychological or psychiatric treatment, as well as advice on how to psychologically confront a conflict and how to use relaxation techniques.

For digital security, it mentions free browser extensions for Google Chrome and Firefox to avoid website tracking. On the other hand, when downloading and installing a program, it advises the user verify that where they are downloading the program from is from the official company or from a confirmed provider.

It also suggests caution with devices used to share information. In Cuba, there is a system called “el paquete” (the package): hard drives full of information, videos, PDF files with websites and more that can be purchased on the underground market. In this case it says "to avoid using software from countries or suppliers that are known to contain malicious software.”

The last chapter exposes risks from the legal point of view and describes several of the laws that most affect a journalist’s work and freedom of expression on the island. It mentions, for example, the well-known article 53 of the Constitution, which explains that all media are property of the State, and when they express ideas that are contrary to the government, they are sanctioned by harsh laws.

Aggression against journalists is intended to generate fear and impose censorship, the manual contends. “Although aggression cannot be avoided, it is possible to reduce the level of vulnerability and damage.”