#HHLOS: Digital security for election reporting

The Hacks/Hackers Lagos January meetup equipped participating journalists with secure tools to assist with their election reporting.

Journalists at the January Hacks/Hackers meetup in Lagos

By Eromosele John

January’s Hacks/Hackers meetup in Lagos discussed concerns about reporting during election time. A recurrent theme was security for journalists and media rooms during what is often a volatile time in some countries.

Attendants shared sobering examples of comrades who have been beaten at political rallies or even followed back to their homes. Sodiq Ajala, a freelancer, elaborated with the case of Charles Otu, a journalist who was attacked by organised political thugs on the streets of Abakiliki in 2015. An article by NAN reports that the thugs accused him of being a threat to the state government. Journalists are also increasingly monitored and attacked online during election time.

One way for journalists to protect themselves is through digital security tools. Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) offer journalists the coat of invisibility required to keep your tracks online private. We demonstrated to participants how VPNs like Jigsaw’s Outline VPN and Tor work. Journalists were also trained on using AfriLeaks, a safe online platform for whistleblowers to submit tips and information, that media organisations are already using across Africa. AfriLeaks runs on Tor VPN technology.

The facilitators also touched on how to make the most of cloud technology as journalists. Participants learnt how to use Google’s cloud services, as well as other cloud storage services such as DropBox, One Drive, iCloud and SoundCloud.

Zero harm for all journalists is our target. We urge journalists to take full advantage of VPNs and secured platforms to avoid having their location and online activities monitored.

About the Author

Eromosele John is a trainer and data wrangler with Code for Nigeria. He is an open data enthusiast and a visualisation expert.

The worlds of hackers and journalists are coming together, as reporting goes digital and Internet companies become media empires.

Journalists call themselves “hacks,” someone who can churn out words in any situation. Hackers use the digital equivalent of duct tape to whip out code.

Hacker-journalists try and bridge the two worlds. Hacks/Hackers Africa aims to bring all these people together — those who are working to help people make sense of our world. It’s for hackers exploring technologies to filter and visualize information, and for journalists who use technology to find and tell stories. In the age of information overload and collapse of traditional business models for legacy media, their work has become even more crucial.

Code for Africa, the continent’s largest #OpenData and civic technology initiative, recognizes this and is spearheading the establishment of a network of HacksHackers chapters across Africa to help bring together pioneers for collaborative projects and new ventures.

Follow Hacks/Hackers Africa on Twitter and Facebook and join the Hacks/Hackers community group today.