Internews’ Journalist Security Fellowship in Central and Southeastern Europe

In 2021, Internews launched the Journalist Security Fellowship (JSF). Over three years, JSF has upskilled journalists in digital security and trained them on how to bolster the awareness and skills of other local journalists. JSF has leveraged a fellowship model, using a community-based approach to reach at-risk groups through experienced journalists or trainers that are well-connected, trusted, and respected within existing journalist communities.

All participating journalists received a targeted curriculum, mentorship support, workshops, and access to global networks at internet freedom events. All fellows also organized a series of local engagements and trainings within their communities, sharing the knowledge they obtained during the fellowship with other journalists from their regions. Fellows also contributed to the development and localization of digital security training materials in coordination with localization partner Localization Lab. JSF fellows have become local digital security champions, serving as points of contact for other journalists interested in learning more about digital security. This program has been successfully piloted in Central and Southeastern Europe but could be easily adapted to most geographic contexts.  

To maximize community resilience in the face of increasing attacks, JSF used a variety of engaging and experiential scenario-based training methods to train journalists in digital security:  

  • A VR (virtual reality) experience which allows journalists to practice making critical decisions which impact their digital security and to safely experience the sensation of sustaining an attack on one’s digital safety. JSF has emphasized employing trauma-informed approaches in the deployment of this method due to its sensitive nature. JSF partnered with Head Set in the development of and training for the VR scene. 
  • Table-top exercises in which participants discuss key digital security dilemmas and look at their organization or community’s readiness to respond to incidents. These were developed by JSF fellows. 
  • A technical simulation using canary tokens which guides participants on how to safely open documents from potentially suspicious sources. 

“JSF fellows have become local digital security champions, serving as points of contact for other journalists interested in learning more about digital security”

Given the innovative nature of these scenario-based trainings, they have been accompanied by comprehensive M&E (monitoring and evaluation) efforts to assess their effectiveness and investigate if they would also serve as an effective training tool in other contexts.  

The infographic below describes the JSF theory of change: 

Learn more about the original components of the JSF. The program was successfully deployed in Central and Southeastern Europe, in response to needs identified through research and interviews.  

JSF Country Partners

The Journalist Security Fellowship has been deployed in nine countries: Albania, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czechia, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia. In each of those countries, Internews has worked closely with an experienced partner organization to better monitor local journalism, legal, and security trends and incidents.

Please see a list of JSF partner organizations below:

Fellowship Alumni
Our Approach to Scenario-Based Training

Our innovative training techniques are designed to allow journalists to practice responding to cutting-edge attacks that can be virtually visualized, experienced, felt, and understood. Internews recommends pairing these scenario-based methods with more traditional training methods for maximum impact. The resources linked below are intended to continue to be used for journalist digital security training, so please feel free to use and adapt them. Many of the resources below have already been localized for a variety of Central and Southeastern European contexts and languages, as well as translated into Arabic and Spanish. 

Table-Top Exercises (TTX) Scenarios

  • Each of the TTX packages contains TTX materials in a different language. These materials include the TTX Facilitation Guide for Digital Safety Training, 5 to 11 TTX scenarios (each focuses on a particular digital security threat), and an introduction to Sara, a TTX Persona present in the TTX scenarios. We recommend reviewing the TTX Facilitation Guide before jumping into the TTX scenarios. The TTX Facilitation Guide also provides guidance on developing your own TTX scenarios. View the Table-Top Exercise Package here.

Technical Simulation with Canary Tokens

  • This technical simulation will allow facilitators to teach journalists how to more securely open documents and provide them with a safe, controlled environment to practice in. The activity uses canary tokens embedded within files and, links which are configured so as to simulate the behavior of some malware trackers. This guide walks through the full simulation and provides step-by-step instructions for facilitation. 

Virtual Reality (VR) 

  • Internews partnered with Head Set to design and develop a digital security VR scene and accompanying training guidance to educate journalists about the importance of employing digital security measures. If you want to learn more about this VR experience and options for integrating it in your programming, please contact Ashley Fowler at [email protected].
Resources on Digital Security for Journalists from Marginalized Communities

Internews worked with JSF fellows and external experts to develop the following four resources focused on digital security considerations and resources for journalists who belong to or collaborate with others who belong to the following communities: Caregivers, LGBTQI+, Roma, Women. 

JSF Training Tips and Recommendations 

JSF designed this resource to for people working within journalist communities or small media outlets who would like to become digital safety ambassadors. Each resource included in this document includes a summary of key ideas related to the topic and tips for sharing these topics with others.