PRECARIOUSNESS AND DIGITAL SECURITY OF JOURNALISTS

DR. SARPHAN UZUNOĞLU
MİNE BERTAN YILMAZ

Executive Summary

In its simplest form, precarious work, which can be defined as an uncertain, unpredictable and risky way of working, is becoming more common in the journalism industry every year. Depending on global trends and digitalization, the precarious working conditions in the journalism sector in Turkey are deepening. Unemployment, which has increased due to political and economic reasons in the sector, accelerates with digitalization, while this situation creates an increase in the number of freelance journalists. 

 

In addition to professional newsrooms, digital newsrooms that are semi-professional or amateur and address the Turkish public but operate outside of Turkey often play a role in the precarious labor pattern. These circumstances make it valuable to focus on the digital safety of freelance journalists who produce content for digital newsrooms. Based on in-depth interviews with freelance journalists producing copyrighted content for newsrooms abroad, editors of newsrooms operating abroad, and digital security trainers, this study aims to outline the insecurity caused by the digitization of news production processes in Turkey and precarious working relationships.

 

In this study, studies on precarious workforce and information security in news centers were used and the relationship between digital security and insecurity was discussed through niche samples such as freelance journalists. Based on in-depth interviews with seven freelance journalists, two newsroom editors and five digital security trainers, it is aimed to draw the framework of the “insecurity” caused by digitalization and precarious working relationships in news production processes.

The prominent findings of this research, which adopts an exploratory approach based on semi-structured in-depth interviews as a method, are as follows:

 

  • Although there are many digital security concerns due to the precarious working conditions of freelance journalists that “make them feel unsafe”, their awareness of digital security is not enough to protect themselves.
  • Freelance journalists often feel at risk when reporting.
  • Freelance journalists feel helpless about financial privacy and digital security due to the legal framework in Turkey and see it as a practical rather than an ethical issue.
  • Freelance journalists have no consensus on staying anonymous and using pseudonyms when they feel unsafe.
  • Journalists using encrypted software only use it when working on sensitive documents. Therefore, they care more about digital security when working on sensitive issues.
  • There is no common understanding among freelance journalists about which app or tool is safe; They use various tools assuming they are safe, but they do not have a deep understanding of how to use these applications or services in a completely safe way.
  • Freelance journalists believe that the digital security training they receive is shaped by Western practices and training materials and that the trainings are not sufficiently localized considering the different needs created by Turkey’s limited media environment and legal framework.
  • Many freelance journalists feel that cryptic security measures pose a threat to them, as police intervention is possible anytime, anywhere.
  • Newsroom editors/managers often leave the initiative in digital security to journalists. Reporters disagree with employers, although various trainings are said to be provided.
  • Editors are aware of the importance of digital security, but effective ways of dealing with risks do not seem sufficient.
  • Journalists do not pay enough attention to digital security trainings, although they do have reservations about applying what they know.
  • Digital security trainers also feel a variety of security threats, so they either avoid public training or self-censor training.
  • The statements of both trainers and journalists about the trainings show that training contents and methods should be developed with the feedback received from the participants.