ProtonBlog

Keeping conflict zone journalists safe: the Berlin Scholarship Program

For journalists working in war zones or under repressive governments, digital security can be the difference between life and death. 

This holiday season, we are giving back to organizations from the Proton Mail community that are furthering our shared causes of online privacy and security. You can support the Reporters Without Borders Berlin Scholarship program by participating in the associated Proton Mail Lifetime account charity auction (update: auction now closed), or by donating directly (link below).

Learn more about this campaign(new window).

Attacks against journalists come in all forms. For Natalya Radina of Charter’97 (read our interview with Natalya here(new window)), it was arrest and abuse. For a reporter in Bahrain, it was malware on her phone and a brutal episode of torture(new window). In Morocco, the government installed spyware on the computers in the newsroom of an independent news site, Mamfakinch(new window). These are just among the cases we know about: journalists working anonymously in places like Syria or under harsh conditions in Myanmar, Egypt, and Yemen face grave harm for doing their jobs. Digital security is an absolute necessity.

Recognizing the dangers, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) Germany and the Berlin Senate Department for Economics, Energy, and Public Enterprises have launched a scholarship program(new window) inviting journalists from conflict zones to Berlin for four months of intensive training in digital security.

Known as the Berlin Scholarship Program: Empowering Journalists in the Digital Field, the program covers their necessary expenses, offers a €1,000 per month stipend, and handles their visa arrangements. It even includes an initial period of relaxation, during which the reporters can decompress from their dangerous jobs and have a respite from the daily stress of their work.

As part of their training, the scholars learn how to communicate securely and protect their devices against hacks. “Across the globe, journalists are increasingly being monitored by governments and intelligence agencies,” said Christophe Deloire, the secretary-general of Reporters Without Borders International. “This jeopardizes their security and that of their sources. We want to support these brave colleagues by providing them with security training.”

Proton Mail stands with journalists

Reporters Without Borders Germany is just one of the thousands of journalists and journalistic organizations from around the world that use Proton Mail. Whether it is training journalists(new window) out in the field, building open-source privacy software, or building features to improve communications security, we are committed to supporting our community however we can. We first came to learn about the Berlin Scholarship Program when we noticed that Proton Mail was one of the recommended ways to submit applications.

We believe democracy and human rights are predicated on a strong press that is empowered to expose corruption, promote solidarity, and dig for the truth. In turn, the press cannot function in today’s world without security, privacy, and freedom online. This is the cause that brought our team together to develop Proton Mail and Proton VPN.

However, it is not sufficient to merely develop software; education, training, and awareness are just as important. The Berlin Scholarship Program aligns strongly with our mission and is worthy of the support of the Proton Mail community. You can support the training of journalists by participating in one of our Proton Mail Lifetime account auctions. All of the funds raised will be donated to support the Berlin Scholarship Program, along with an additional donation from us so that at least €10,000 is donated.

You can learn more about the charity auctions and Proton Mail Lifetime Accounts here(new window).

If you would like to support Reporters Without Borders Germany but don’t necessarily want to bid on a Lifetime Account, you can donate directly to RSF on this page(new window). (Note: The page is in German. Add the text “Proton Mail Campaign” as a personal message in the space under “Ihre persönliche Nachricht” to indicate that you would like the funds to be allocated to the Berlin Scholarship Program.)

Finally, if you’re a journalist, we’ve prepared several useful resources, including an online security guide for journalists(new window) and how to protect your devices when crossing borders(new window). We’ve also developed new features specifically for journalists, including our unique encrypted contacts tool. And very importantly, please check back next year when applications to the 2019 Berlin Scholarship Program open. Thank you for the critical work that you do.

This year, we are also supporting Charter’97 (read their story on our blog here(new window)) and the WireGuard project(new window).

P.S. If your organization is part of the Proton Mail community and in need of support, please let us know at media@proton.me as we plan to hold additional campaigns in the future.

You can get a free secure email account from Proton Mail here.

We also provide a free VPN service(new window) to protect your privacy.

Proton Mail and Proton VPN are funded by community contributions. If you would like to support our development efforts, you can upgrade to a paid plan. Thank you for your support!

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