As part of our strategy on building safe digital environment for media professionals, bloggers and social media campaigners, DS organized advanced digital security training for group of local journalists operating in Mogadishu Somalia. The purpose of this particular training was to equip participants, whom most of them have attended our previous basic training, with advanced tools to protect themselves and their sources by learning the latest digital security gadgets, applications as well as encryption tools.
From their expectations, it has come to our realization that most media institutions in Somalia do not have a mandatory digital security training for journalists. Some of them have mentioned that they have taken hostile training, psychical security and reporting skills from the field. However, it was unanimously agreed that, despite not receiving basic digital safety training, almost all journalists use the internet during the course of their work on a daily basis.
To avoid large gathering, participants were divided into two groups as precocious measures of mitigating the risk of COVID19 with social distancing seating in the training venue. Hand sensitizers and face masks were also made available at the registration desks. During the first session of the training, they were also informed about basic COVID19 preventive measures as well as misinformation about the virus itself which is still spreading in social media.
Among the topics covered during the training included:-
- Digital Safety and Analyzing digital threats
- Digital data backups: Importance and tools
- Classification tips for misinformation and disinformation
- Research presentation on strategies for evaluating (mis)information in the HoA region’s media environment presented by Dr Peter Chonka, lecturer and research at the Department of Digital Humanity of King’s College London.
- Introduction to digital encryption techniques (VeraCrypt, BitLocker, AxCrypt and Tutanota)
- Virtual Private Network (VPN)
- Data recovery tools and techniques
- Dealing with social media trolls
During the training, various methodologies have been applied such as discussions, gallery walk, presentations, group work, video clips and flip charts for more clarification of contents. Participants were also allowed to have enough time to practice the various tools provided by the facilitator in a flash disk.
The training came at a right time when press freedom in Somalia is deteriorating following the case of a popular local journalist Abdiaziz Gurbiye who was summoned in Mogadishu’s regional court. He was accused him of charges related with two posts he made on Facebook in April this year. In the post-, Abdiaziz criticized government’s response toward COVID19 and was consequently arrested in police station. Abdiaziz’s case came as shock to other fellow media practitioners who were already operating under life-threatening environment.
“It is not just the press freedom that is declining in Somalia at the moment, as matter of fact, the entire civic space (online and offline) is closing and it seems that we are now ending up as target of digital surveillance. Our communication is already compromised, our online activity is under constant watch and perhaps the sensitive information we have is no longer protected i guess” said one of the journalists who publish articles for local news website.
“Not all of us are technically tech savvy of course. Even if we know how to navigate the draconian media law and the obsolete penal code used to charge journalists or understand the complicated government processes, we may not know how to identify a simple phishing email.” Said another participant, “or how to encrypt our data to be honest” he added.
During the encryption session, participants were trained on existing open source encryption tools to protect their files and online communications. Among the tools provided include VeraCrytp which was demonstrated by the facilitator on the projector screen followed by practical session by all participants. another useful tool which was demonstrated in the same session was the end-to-end encrypted email software known as Tutanota which everyone in the group found very useful for their day to day communications. The facilitator made sure that all participants have their new accounts up and running while at the same time allowing them to have some time to exchange emails.
Perhaps one of the most interesting session of the training was about evaluating misinformation and disinformation in Horn of Africa media landscape with focus on Somalia. It was a research paper presented by a guest speaker invited by Digital Shelter Dr Peter Chonka who is a PhD holder and lecturer in Global Digital Cultures at King’s College London. Dr Pete gave practical examples of identifying misinformation and disinformation in the online platforms which was essential for media professionals who will be covering upcoming elections of the country in 2021.
In addition to these essential topics, participants were also trained on what do if they are caught up in certain situations that may compromise their digital identify. For instance, to protect their online accounts they were advised to separate work- related and personal accounts, turn on their two factor authentication (2FA), check their privacy settings on a regular basis, particularly for those who are actively using social media. Among other tips provided included using unique and long passwords for each of their accounts.
To protect their devices, they were also recommended to frequently update their operating systems (OIS and Android) and lock their devices with password, code, or PIN number. The facilitator also made sure that all participants had secure private messaging apps installed on their phones.
During the closing remarks, Ms Ayaan from DS forwarded a word of thank to the attendees for their active participation and hoped they will apply the skills learned in their daily work.
“As we move forward in an increasingly connected world, it is very vital that you know these skills to protect yourselves, your colleagues, your sources and most importantly your loved ones from the increasing digital attacks which may turn into deadly physical threats.” She said. “ it is only going to be more complicated and the attacks will keep happening, therefore, we must take digital security vey seriously.” She concluded.
This article was written by Abdifatah Hassan Ali, co-founder of Digital Shelter, he can be followed on Twitter: @IamAbdi5