Digital and physical security: Reporting during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2022


Throughout the pandemic, journalists have played a crucial role in informing the public about the risks of COVID-19. The global situation continues to evolve and many countries are increasing or easing travel restrictions and safety measures as concerning coronavirus variants are identified and the COVID-19 vaccination program is accelerated.

Basic COVID-19 Mitigation

  • Consider getting vaccinated against COVID-19, if available, before any posting. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, you can still transmit the virus.
  • Try to work in well-ventilated areas with fresh airflow whenever possible.
  • Stay two meters or six feet away from others whenever possible to observe social distancing.
  • Face masks should be worn if social distancing cannot be maintained for an extended period. Additional personal protective equipment is a good idea in high-risk areas.
  • Wash your hands regularly.
  • Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer gel if necessary.
  • Disinfect all equipment regularly.
  • Try to limit the number of people you are exposed to through work.

Digital Security

Journalists have faced a range of difficulties communicating with their sources and colleagues during the pandemic, including unsecured remote offices. Many journalists who report on public health measures such as vaccinations and mask requirements have encountered online hostility from people who oppose them.

For a safer home working environment

  • Update your devices regularly.
  • Use a password manager and enable two-step verification.
  • Consider where you store your documents and try to keep business and personal accounts separate.
  • Use an end-to-end encrypted messaging app, such as Signal and WhatsApp. Activate the disappearance of messages if necessary.
  • Regularly copy or back up the content of your messaging apps.

For more information, see CPJ’s security brief on working from home.

Better protect against online abuse

  • Review your data online and take steps to remove information that could put you or others at risk, such as family photos.
  • Check the privacy settings of your accounts and remove content that you think could be used to target you.
  • Disable location tracking on social media and other accounts.
  • If you are in the United States, register with data deletion sites to have your address and other personal information removed from public databases.
  • Develop a process for documenting abuse and speak to your newsroom about any posts that might indicate a physical threat.

For more information, see CPJ’s guides on deleting personal data from the Internet, protecting against targeted online attacks, and other resources.

Reporting on protests

According to The Conversation, journalists in some countries have been verbally and physically attacked by anti-vaccination and anti-lockdown protesters. Some news agencies have tightened security measures following death threats and many offices have been stormed by protesters.

  • Expect significant hostility and verbal abuse from crowds protesting covid mitigation measures such as vaccinations, masking or lockdown mandates.
  • Prepare to get out of the situation quickly if necessary to avoid physical injury.
  • Journalists have been targeted for wearing masks at such events. Balance the risks of airborne viruses with the risk of unwanted attention.

For more information, CPJ’s safety brief on covering civil unrest details how to stay safe when crowds turn violent.

CPJ’s Digital Safety Kit is available in Español, Français, Русский, Português, العربية, Afsoomaali, አማርኛ, and ဗမာစာ. CPJ’s original advisory on coverage of the coronavirus outbreak, first published in 2020, is available in multiple languages.


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