July 24, 2018

RSF new scholarship program trains journalists in digital security

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) Germany is launching a new scholarship program in response to the increasing digital surveillance of journalists worldwide, supported by the Berlin Senate Department for Economics, Energy and Public Enterprises. The program aims to give media professionals from war and crisis areas the chance to take time out in Berlin and train them in digital security. The first four scholarships are now being advertised ( Journalists from all over the world can apply.


"Across the globe, journalists are increasingly being monitored by governments and intelligence agencies. This jeopardizes their own security and that of their sources," said RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire. "We want to support these brave colleagues by providing them with security training. From now on, journalists who fear to be victims of digital surveillance will be able to turn to the RSF Emergency Help Desk in Germany. That's a new example of the RSF innovation spirit in order to address the key challenges of our times."


"In many countries, journalists and bloggers are intimidated, threatened and persecuted because of their work," said Senator for Economics, Energy and Public Enterprises, Ramona Pop. "Berlin has established itself in recent years as Europe's 'web activism capital', where a significant digital activist scene has developed. Now we are inviting digital media journalists who are under threat in their home countries to Berlin and supporting them with a scholarship program. Berlin as a city of freedom exerts a strong attraction, and we assume our responsibility to defend freedom of expression and the press."


The scholarship program will begin with a rest period during which journalists from crisis regions in particular can relax and acclimatize to Berlin. After that the participants will receive several weeks of intensive training in digital security during which they will learn, for example, how to communicate safely and protect themselves against hacker attacks. One of the objectives of the scholarship program is for the journalists to pass on the knowledge they acquire to colleagues in their home regions and become local contact persons for issues related to digital threats. The program therefore also includes didactic training.


There have been repeated instances of journalists all over the world being targeted for digital surveillance. In Bahrain, the authorities use the Internet for the systematic surveillance of dissidents. The phone connection of Bahraini journalist Nazeeha Saeed, for example, was deliberately and repeatedly infected with malware ( In Morocco, spyware was installed on the computers at the editorial offices of the anti-government website Mamfakinch. Because its informants were also affected by the measure, other sources lost confidence in the website. ( In China, the government has created a sophisticated system of surveillance and online censorship. In Turkey, around a year ago opposition members and activists were targeted by a professional surveillance campaign. Using spyware, hackers gained access to the address books, photos and videos on their mobile phones and also listened in on phone calls (


Exiled journalists who work for Berlin-based exile media will also be included in the scholarship program and trained in digital security. Berlin has become an important location for exile media outlets from all over the world, including the Azerbaijani television channel Meydan TV, the German-Turkish website taz.gazete and the online magazine Syria Untold. These media are published almost exclusively online while some of their employees continue to work anonymously from their home countries. This renders them particularly vulnerable to digital threats. A large number of whistleblowers and hackers have sought refuge in Berlin over the past few years, leading to the emergence in the German capital of a web activist scene that is unique in Europe.


The scholarship program is initially planned for a period of one and a half years. During this time, a total of 16 journalists from all over the world and three journalists working for Berlin-based exile media will be trained in a series of four separate rounds. The program covers the travel and visa costs of scholarship holders, their rent in Berlin and their health insurance costs. In addition, participants will receive a monthly allowance of approximately 1,000 euros.


In parallel with the scholarship program, Reporters Without Borders is setting up a digital help desk in Berlin which journalists from all over the world can contact with enquiries about digital security. At the end of their scholarship, participants in the program will spend time working at the help desk and applying their newly acquired knowledge.


With this scholarship program Reporters Without Borders is expanding its current range of Berlin-based programs aimed at protecting journalists. Together with the taz panter foundation, the organization is also organizing a rest and refuge scholarship ( which offers journalists from war and crisis regions the opportunity to spend a rest period of three months in Berlin. So far scholarship holders from Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Burundi, Zimbabwe, Turkey, Uganda and Ukraine have been invited. From 2013 to 2016 Reporters Without Borders, in cooperation with the Tactical Technology Collective and with funding from the German Federal Foreign Office, invited journalists from several countries including Azerbaijan, Bahrain and Myanmar to Berlin and trained them in digital security (


Reporters without borders

- German section

Ulrike Gruska / Christoph Dreyer / Anne Renzenbrink / Juliane Matthey

[email protected]

T: +49 (0)30 60 98 95 33-55



Senate Department for Economics, Energy and Public Enterprises

Svenja Fritz / Matthias Borowski

[email protected]

T: +49 30 9013-7418 / +49 30 9013-8112