Safety app promises lifeline for journalists (INSI)


Can the latest technology help journalists stay safe in hostile places?

Our podcast hosted by INSI’s Anna Bevan examines a personal safety app designed for journalists working in dangerous environments.


Guatemala: Fed up with corruption (New Internationalist)

General elections in Guatemala usually follow a predictable pattern of propaganda, violence and despair. This year, three lacklustre centrist candidates – rightwing populist Manuel Baldizón who promises to reintroduce the death penalty, former first lady Sandra Torres and comedian Jimmy Morales – are vying for the presidency. But the build up to September’s vote has been anything but routine.

Guatemala is facing a political crisis that has seen tens of thousands march against repeated corruption scandals. The movement has toppled a plethora of high-ranking government officials.

“The youth are not willing to tolerate the corruption that earlier generations have grown accustomed to,” says Mario Polanco, a Guatemalan human rights activist.

The exposure – by a UN-backed anti-impunity commission – of a multi-million-dollar customs fraud scheme has led to the arrest of 20 state officials and the resignation of the vice-president and six ministers. But that was only the beginning.

Subsequent investigations prompted the jailing of the heads of the central bank and social security institute, cast doubts over individuals within the main opposition party and concluded that the country’s elections are flush with illegal money.  

Guatemala is no stranger to a protest; but in a deeply divided country, with a history of conflict between the rural and urban population, corruption fatigue has prompted an unprecedented display of unity.

“People who had never protested before came out onto the streets. People aged 50 or older protested against these abuses for the first time. Crucially, they protested alongside students from all kinds of universities, people of diverse economic and cultural backgrounds and gay people. Even in a country as machista as Guatemala, everyone was welcome,” said Polanco.

Emboldened by the imprisonment of dozens of suspects and the resignation of others, many protesters are calling for the elections to be postponed until Congress approves a series of electoral reforms.

Guatemala has struggled with high-level corruption for years, and few believe that swapping the current president for another will make a difference; what the country needs is a new constitution that mandates electoral reform, to bring in changes such as tighter rules about party financing.

But until that happens, one thing has changed, says Polanco. “The people won’t put up with these abuses any longer. They’ve become empowered and I’m sure they will continue protesting, even against corruption in the next government.”

September update: Trolls’ vitriol silencing journalists (INSI)


There are many ways of silencing the media, but a new and alarming trend that’s on the rise is online abuse against journalists – specifically women.

Trolls no longer reside in slimy pits under bridges, but lurk behind keyboards vomiting vitriol in an unprecedented threat to freedom of speech. A single tweet, email or comment can result in reporters fearing for their lives, censoring their work or even leaving the profession entirely.

Earlier this month, at an OSCE discussion on digital threats against female journalists, I was shocked as I listened to brave reporters read out a small selection of the rape threats and death threats they receive on a regular basis as a result of their work. They told numerous stories of colleagues who had shut down their social media accounts and stopped writing when personal information about them appeared online.

Journalists with seemingly uncontroversial beats such as technology and culture complained they no longer felt safe. One was even forced to move state and change her career when a white supremacist group posted her address on the internet.

Journalist safety is no longer left to those working in conflict zones to contemplate. Threats arrive online and offline and have a devastating impact on society as intimidated journalists begin to censor their work or, as a result of psychological trauma, are forced to find new jobs.

Tunisia training

Digital safety was among the topics featured at INSI’s two-day training course held this month in Tunis, Tunisia. We trained 15 local and international journalists on how to adapt to the changing safety landscape in a country, and region, that has become increasingly unsafe for media workers.

Journalists told INSI about being threatened and their homes broken into. International and local journalists doing investigative stories have even been arrested, course participants said.


In our latest podcast, ex-INSI director Rodney Pinder emphasises the importance of instilling a culture of journalist safety at the grassroots level and asks if news organisations are doing enough to protect their employees. He questions whether reporters are being sent “naked” into dangerous situations as some news outlets still aren’t providing the necessary safety equipment.

Building a culture of journalist safety

Also this month, in conjunction with the International Press Institute and Al Jazeera, INSI brought together a number of media safety experts in London to discuss a new set of safety guidelines and an international safety declaration that will be presented at the World Media Summit in Qatar in November. The global effort aims to promote a culture of safety within the media industry both by raising awareness among journalists about international standards of safety and recognising best practices in the newsroom for protecting journalists.

“We are looking at three groups of stakeholders: journalists, who should be aware that no story is worth their lives; media organisations, which should never send journalists on assignments if they are not entirely sure they are prepared for them; and state institutions, which should end impunity in crimes against journalists,” said IPI executive board member and World Press Freedom Hero Daoud Kuttab.

Next month INSI will hold its AGM at 09:30 at the Berlin Conference Centre on the 28 October. If you are interested in attending, please email

Anna Bevan is INSI’s assistant director. 

24 hours in Vienna, Austria (The Travel Magazine)

The Eurovision Song Contest may have been and gone, but there are still plenty of reasons to visit the Austrian capital this summer. Once the centre of the largest empire in the world, Vienna has a rich intellectual and artistic legacy that is reflected in its buildings, statues and perfectly manicured parks.

But it isn’t all about its imperial heritage, Vienna seamlessly blends old and new: Baroque architecture and gay-themed traffic lights, 19th century coffeehouses and legendary hot dog stands. Situated in eastern Austria, on the banks of the Danube River, Vienna retains its regal air while offering a glimpse of the avant-garde.

Must spend the afternoon

Vienna is the epitome of coffeehouse culture. But if it’s a Starbucks to-go that you’re after, you’ve come to the wrong place. Afternoon coffee and cake is taken to a new level here, with many people whiling away hours reading the newspaper over a frothy melange coffee and a generous portion of apfelstrudel. This world-famous tradition dates back to the late 17th century and was recently added to the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage list. Café Landtmann prides itself on being responsible for the Viennese coffee house institution and was once regularly frequented by the father of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud, and composer, Gustav Mahler.

Must see

Spanish Riding School The Winter Riding School
Spanish Riding School The Winter Riding School © WienTourismus / Lois Lammerhuber

As to be expected from the international capital of classical music, Vienna’s concert calendar is crammed with operas, theatrical performances and music shows – many of them take place in historic locations and some even throw in dinner and a palace tour too. ‘Sound of Vienna’ offers up a local extravaganza with music from Mozart and Strauss, operetta, ballet and waltz.

A different kind of ballet is presented at the Spanish Riding School where Lipizzan horses have been dazzling audiences for years with their distinctive paces and pirouettes, which they perform in perfect harmony with the music. There are various options to see the White Stallions: during morning training, at a tour of their stables or an afternoon show, and you don’t have to be an equine enthusiast to appreciate any one of those options.

Must stay

Fuelled by its belief that “pretentious excess gets in the way”, Hotel Daniel combines simplicity and edgy urbanism. With its lazy interior, urban garden and rentable Vespas, this hotel likes to do things a little bit differently, and offers hammocks in the bedrooms and an aluminium caravan in the garden for those who think the same. It’s well located, just a short walk from the main train station, and neighbours the illustrious museum and palace, Schloss Belvedere, which is a stop-off point for any art lover.

Must eat

Sachertorte © WienTourismus / Peter Koller

Vienna is a giant bakery, so make sure to wear your elasticated waist trousers when venturing out to sample its culinary scene. It’s not just home to the Sacher-Torte, arguably the most famous chocolate cake in the world, but also shredded pancakes (Kaiserschmarrn), dense Bundt cakes (Gugelhupf), Topfelstrudel (apfelstrudel’s younger, cream cheese-filled sibling) and Christmas cookies of all shapes and sizes. There are ice cream parlours on most street corners and shops devoted to the humble wafer – Manner on Stephansplatz claims to sell around 4,000 wafers a day.

Top tip: Sacher-Torte lasts for up to two weeks and Hotel Sacher sells it in an easily transportable box, making it the perfect present to take home from your trip – as long as you don’t devour it beforehand.

If you haven’t got a sweet tooth, you won’t go hungry: goulash and schnitzel are widely served, and you can’t leave town without trying one of Vienna’s very own weiners. Bitzinger, next to the Albertina museum, is a sausage stand that serves up the essentials: sausages and beer. Come rain or shine, businessmen, hippies and students alike can be found gathered around this Würstelstand late into the night, eating a cheese- or curry-infused weiner in a hollowed out bun. If you’re after something a little more formal, then try Motto am Fluss on the banks of the Danube.

Must visit museum

View of the Volksgarten, museums and Parliament
View of the Volksgarten, museums and Parliament © WienTourismus / Christian Stemper

Vienna has an extensive selection of museums, ranging from predictably ornate art galleries, to slightly quirkier offerings, such as Johann Strauss’ apartment or Sigmund Freud’s office (albeit minus his famous couch, which lives in London). The Leopold houses an extensive collection of work from the city’s very own Gustav Klimt and his younger contemporary Egon Schiele.

48 hours in Stavanger, Norway (The Travel Magazine)

There’s no escaping nature in Stavanger. Norway’s south-western port city is surrounded by a concoction of fjords, mountains and miles of sandy coastlines that demand to be explored. Famed for its Viking history and quaint wooden buildings, juxtaposed with modern urbanity brought about by its oil industry, Stavanger is fast becoming something of a mecca for adventure travel enthusiasts keen to experience nature at its most raw.

Must hike

Preikestolen (Pulpit Rock)
Preikestolen (Pulpit Rock) (c) Terje Rakke/Nordic life 2011

Preikestolen (also known as Pulpit Rock) is a stunning four-hour round hike that weaves 8km through forests, marshlands and open mountain terrain. Take a 40-minute ferry ride from Stavanger to Tau and then a 25-minute bus ride to the start of the free trail. Recently reinforced by Nepalese Sherpas, the sturdy path is suitable for almost all abilities but is difficult to navigate at night so ensure you give yourself plenty of time to descend in daylight. Tip: take a packed lunch to eat at the top on the plateau, which juts out 604 metres above Lysefjord and offers staggering views of the surrounding area.

Must stroll

Old Stavanger (Gamle Stavanger)
Old Stavanger (Gamle Stavanger) (c) Gunhild Vevik /

Gamle Stavanger is the old part of town, located close to the port. Its narrow, cobbled streets are home to a cluster of 173 closely built, white wooden houses that date back to the 1700s and are thought to be the largest surviving wooden house settlement in northern Europe. The immaculately kept buildings, with their well-groomed flowerboxes, offer a glimpse of what life was like in the 18th century.

Must go to a museum

Perhaps one of the more bizarre places to check out, the Norwegian Canning Museum documents Stavanger’s canning industry history and gives an insight into a town dependent on the production of canned fish. Complete with antique machinery from the late 1800s, a black-and-white film and smoky ovens, the museum shows you what life was like in Stavanger, before oil dominated. And the Norwegian Petroleum Museum fills in the rest: its interactive exhibits describe how oil and gas are created, details their discovery in the North Sea and shows you what life is like on a drilling rig.

Must eat

With smoked mackerel on offer for breakfast, salmon for lunch and mussels for dinner, fish can, and should, be consumed at every meal. There is a vibrant gastronomic scene, largely sourced from the North Sea, with a several great restaurants along the waterfront and on the coast.

Straen Fiskerestaurant serves up first class seafood and harbour views, while Bevaremegvel Restaurantoffers tasty Brasserie-style dining a couple of streets back from the water in a cosy, historic house.

Must stay

Scandic Stavanger City is a modern hotel, conveniently located in front of the ferry that takes you to Preikestolen and walking distance from the harbour.

Alternatively, the 100-year old Sola Strand Hotel just outside the city is situated on the pristine western coastline. Once occupied by German soldiers during World War II, it has a spa and restaurant with stunning views of the ocean from Sola beach.

Brazilian deaths highlight need for safety training (INSI)

The brutal murders of Brazilian journalists Djalma Santos de Conceição and Evany José Metzker, which came at a time when INSI was in Rio de Janeiro to conduct safety training, have once again shown the dire situation for media workers in the South American country.

Both journalists, who were renowned for denouncing corruption, were found dead in May in northeastern Brazil.

“Unfortunately it’s not unusual for journalists to be killed in Brazil,” said Marcelo Moreira, editor coordinator at Globo TV, Brazil’s biggest media organisation. “In recent years Brazil has always been among the top ten countries for journalist deaths.”

INSI’s intensive three-day programme was attended by 15 media security advisors from three regions of the country and is part of a long-term partnership between INSI and Globo TV that started in 2006 and has resulted in the safety training of more than 600 local media professionals.

The security advisors learned ways to better understand the threats journalists face and how they can help mitigate them through rigorous planning and preparation, medical training and situational awareness.

“This training was a big learning experience for me,” said Globo producer Erika Stockler, who participated in the safety training. “Everything we’ve learned here will be important for keeping journalists safer and therefore contributing to press freedom.”

INSI has been supporting journalists in Brazil for almost a decade and has repeatedly returned to the country to run safety training sessions. In 2012, INSI trained 11 journalists to become safety trainers, and is currently mentoring them with the aim that they will be able train their colleagues in their own language in the future. This sustainable project aims to ensure that more journalists have access to safety training throughout the South American country.

“We truly believe that INSI’s work is fundamental to decreasing the numbers of journalist casualties around the world. We not only do safety sessions in Brazil for our journalists working at home, but also consult INSI when we deploy journalists on dangerous assignments abroad, and this has been very helpful,” said Moreira.

INSI is delighted to have worked with Globo over the past decade and support the growing awareness of a safety culture in Brazil.

“We look forward to returning to Brazil to continue the training we have already done, helping develop the capacity of local journalists to help their own colleagues and supporting Globo as it leads the safety conversation in the country in order to make Brazil a safer place for all those working there,” said INSI Director Hannah Storm.

Top 10 things to see and do in and around Toronto (The Travel Magazine)

Toronto Skyline

“Diversity our strength” is Toronto’s motto and it’s evident throughout the city: from the statue outside Union Station that celebrates migration, to the internationally inspired cuisine and the more than 100 languages that echo around the streets. Toronto is one of the most multicultural metropolises in the world, which means it has something for everyone – the only problem is fitting it all in. My advice for where to start: go straight to the top…

1. CN Tower: Toronto’s most iconic skyscraper isn’t just something to see, it’s something to experience. Once the world’s tallest freestanding structure, the CN Tower is a modern engineering marvel that stands at 553m. With a glass elevator to take you to the transparent viewing platforms, a 360-degree rotating restaurant and the world’s highest full-circle, hands-free edge walk, you could spend a day here. Set lunches at 360 start from $55 – it’s not cheap, but the price includes complimentary access to the Look Out and Glass Floors (normally $32), which makes the unique dining experience more affordable. Edge Walk gives thrill seekers the chance to test their limits and see why the CN Tower shouldn’t be seen from below, looking up, but why Toronto should be seen from above, looking down.

2. Catch a game: Toronto’s sports teams may have had their fair share of disappointment in recent years, but what they lack for in their trophy cabinets their fans make up for in spirit. Depending on the season, take your pick from baseball, basketball or hockey, and try and match the locals as they cheer on the Blue Jays, Raptors or Maple Leafs. The entertainment’s non-stop, with cheerleading, fan competitions and the occasional half-time ballroom dancing show. If you don’t get to see the Maple Leafs take home the Stanley Cup, then head to the Hockey Hall of Fame where you can touch the coveted trophy.

3. Eat your way around the world: St Lawrence MarketWith its emphasis on diversity and heritage, it’s no surprise Toronto’s local cuisine is a mosaic of global flavours that satisfy every palette. Be sure to leave room for a peameal bacon sandwich and butter tart at Lawrence Market. Described as one of the world’s great markets, the culinary landmark was originally built in 1803 and features two floors of speciality food vendors offering a festival of sights and smells. Tip: grab your food to go and have a picnic a few blocks down beside Lake Ontario.

4. Walking/Cycling Tours: Torontonians have known their city is something special for a while, but the rest of us are only just catching on. Explore the hidden backstreets and learn about the city’s history and architecture with a local guide. In addition to free walking tours, Tour Guys offer craft beer, bacon, graffiti and ghost tours, while Toronto Bicycle Tours allows you to cover more ground (and burn off all those butter tarts) as you escape downtown and cycle through the city’s parks and surrounding neighbourhoods.

5. Streetcar: Take a 501 streetcar eastbound on Queen St. and travel through an array of neighbourhoods. The scenic loop is one of the busiest and longest in Toronto’s tram system, passing through the heart of the city and heading out towards the waterfront. If you catch it right (i.e. avoid rush hour) time seems to slow down and you get a charming glimpse of the city’s diversity. Jump off by the Humber Loop and stroll down to the water to see Toronto from a distance. It’s a tranquil walk back along the bridge over the Humber River towards the city and offers a change from the standard issue skyline shots. If you’re not feeling that energetic then hop back on the 501 westbound and get off when you arrive downtown.

6. Niagara Falls: Want to see what more than a million bathtubs of cascading water look like? Brave the crowds and drive 90 minutes out of Toronto to witness the sheer volume and magic of Niagara Falls. Niagara Falls from a helicopterThe natural beauty spans both the U.S.A and Canada, with the mighty Horseshoe Falls located on the Canadian side. It’s free to visit, but if you want to spend cash on additional experiences there’s no shortage of options. ‘Journey Behind the Falls’ takes you down tunnels and behind the Falls, and ‘Niagara’s Fury’ is a fun 4D simulation providing a brief history of the area. If you still want more, join a cruise along the water or splurge on an unforgettable helicopter ride at Niagara Helicopters. There’s no wrong time to go as the Falls are transformed in different seasons (there’s more water in the summer, but also more tourists).

7. Niagara-on-the-lake: It may be less than half an hour from Niagara Falls, but you’ll feel a million miles away in this charming historic town at the heart of Canada’s wine-growing region. Once the capital of Upper Canada, Niagara-on-the-lake was the scene of several important battles and the town’s 19th century architecture has been preserved as a National Historic Site. Nowadays the region enjoys a more relaxed pace of life – no doubt helped by its numerous wineries. Fort George, the Niagara Apothecary and the town’s many historic firsts (Canada’s first library, newspaper and golf course) are worth a visit before dinner at a local vineyard. Exhausted from all the sightseeing? Take a horse-drawn carriage through Old Town or a boat ride up Niagara River to experience the region’s serenity. Tip: don’t leave without a bottle of Peller Estates Winery’s award-winning ice wine – the perfect souvenir.

8. Wacky Museums: It’s not just the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) and Fort York that are worth a stop, Toronto has a number of quirky informative attractions that also deserve your attention. Leave the traditional postcard for another day and send your loved ones a quill-written letter at Toronto’s First Post Office, which dates back to 1835. Bata Shoe Museum is great for anyone interested in fashion, celebrities and the history of high heels, while budding Sherlock fans can get up close and personal to the man behind the name at The Arthur Conan Doyle Collection.

9. See a Show: Toronto boasts the third largest theatre scene in the world, with an abundance of traditional and contemporary work, and the legendary comedy institution Second City, Toronto’s Entertainment District deserves a visit. If Tony Award-winning shows aren’t your style, Toronto’s also home to Canada’s National Ballet School, the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) and one of the largest opera companies in North America. Tip: make a night of it and sample Nota Bene’s pre-theatre menu before heading to a show.

10. Island hopping: Just a short ferry ride away from the mainland lies a chain of 15 small, car-free islands that are home to around 650 people. You’ll have your choice of beaches (clothing is optional on certain ones) and can rent kayaks, arrange harbour tours or visit an old-fashioned amusement park. Ferries take you between the islands and allow bikes on board during most of the year. Tip: for a romantic evening, cycle around Ward Island at dusk to see the city illuminated from a distance.

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