Pakistan is the world’s fourth most dangerous country for journalists, but female journalists are more vulnerable than their male counterparts.

Keeping this in mind, the Digital Rights Foundation conducted a two-day workshop with 10 female journalists from Lahore, and two from Gujranwala. The workshop, held on February 27 and 28, helped participants get a better idea of how secure and safe they are while using their digital tools as they create and develop news.

The session was the first in a series that will take the women forward and teach them extensive digital security skills. The entire program is being conducted in collaboration with the Lahore Press Club, which has been instrumental in helping mobilise the participants.

The participants come from all corners of the media industry. Editors, reporters, producers, etc. from online, print and electronic media took part in the workshop. Their diversity helped highlight a range of different issues that women face in their journalistic work. 

Umaima Ahmed, an online journalist participating at the session said she learned new things. “The session taught me how to keep my work secure. I now know how to secure my accounts and keep my data safe,” she said while talking about the workshop.

“Coming from a male dominant society, being a female journalist is not acceptable to people, which means that one faces greater threats. So, learning these skills was extremely important,” she added.

Masooma Taqi, an electronic journalist, also attended the session, and helped highlight how integrated technology has become in a journalist’s work.  

“I have always wanted to keep my identity secure and work on my projects without disclosing it. I learned that here. And learning how to securing my data was a bigger achievement for me because I did not know how to do it before.

“A mobile device has become an essential part of our lives and learning how to secure data from there. Basically the workshop taught me to secure components that are part of my everyday life as a journalist,” she said.

The workshop also helped highlight that security is only as good as the person on the other end. If the people you are sending sensitive information to are not secure, then it does not matter how secure you are.

“I didn’t care about my security that much before but after attending the session I have realised how much I need to worry about it,” Fatima Asad, a print journalist, said at the event.

“It’s also interesting that if your editor is not secure you are essentially not secure. He has information on your work, sources, contacts and more - so if he doesn’t understand security he could compromise you,” she said.

Digital Rights Foundation Executive Director, Nighat Dad, said that there is a need to contextualise the issues that female journalists face in Pakistan.

“We cannot use international digital security resources that are available because they do not address the issues that female journalists have. Women here face a higher level of harassment and abuse - apart from which there is greater surveillance from official channels as well,” she said.

Nighat also pointed out that at times complicated and extensive knowledge of security tools is not the need of the hour. “The workshop has showed us that journalists often do not even know basic things. By teaching them how to take their first steps towards security we help them become a little more secure,” she said. 

The first session has concluded but work has just begun on teaching female journalists how to stay safe and secure.