Looking at how female journalists are everyday facing serious challenge, from cyberbullying and blackmail in order to silence their voice as journalists, coupled with the increasing use of online tools as important instruments for the practice of journalism, this has increased female journalists online vulnerability. A number of female journalists have become subject to privacy invasion. With government clamp down on the social media, journalists are forced to look for ways to bypass blockage. For example, in May, 2021 the Government of Nigeria suspended the operations of Twitter in the country, blocked access to the platform, advised mandatory discontinuation of the use of twitter handles by broadcast organizations and announced a jail term for anyone found using twitter in the period of the suspension. This at once may also expose journalists to falling into the traps of privacy invaders which is capable of undermining the ability of women journalists to practice their profession.
Female journalists in Nigeria are everyday facing challenges with access to online tools. Online harassment has become rampant coupled with hacking of their accounts by either hackers or government agencies who want silence their voices online. In many instances, their vulnerabilities arose in the sense that a large number of people in the community believe that it is a taboo for females to be online with the harsh judgement and harassment meted on them when they are journalists because the society does not recognized their rights.
In view of the above, the Centre for information Technology and Development (CITAD) as part of its initiatives to create awareness on the safety and privacy online specially to the female journalists in the country had on the 14th and 15th of October, 2021 with support from Association for Progressive Communications (APC) organized a two day workshop to 10 females journalists from five (5) states of Northern Nigeria (Gombe, Adamawa, Kaduna Bauchi and Kano) with the title #KeepOurFemaleJournalistsSafeOnline at Flourish Hotel Gombe.
This type of training is important to female journalists in the country because it will expose them to the dangers they are in both online and offline while practicing their profession, at the same time the training will help them to know how to protect themselves from attacks and hackers online. Moreover, the two today workshop was designed in a way that the participants will understand fully the different techniques and procedures to follow in order to stay safe online.
As part of the initiative, on the 19th of August, 2021 CITAD had earlier trained online journalists in Kano state on safety and security online. The aim of the training was to build the capacity of the journalists and raise awareness about safety, security and threats that are associated to working online.
The Objectives of the Two Day Workshop were:
- Build the capacity of the targeted women journalists to safely use the internet (including privacy protection)
- Raise the awareness of the participants about safety and privacy online
- Initiate some female journalists to join the campaign for digital rights and safety and privacy online for women
Before the start of the training a pre-test was administered likewise after the workshop a post-test was administered to the participants in order to know the level of their knowledge and at the end see whether there is any changes in their understanding of the topics discussed. In the pre-test conducted, in every question asked almost 60% percent of the answers given were wrong while for the post-test the least gotten from the answers right was 85%. For example, when they were asked to mention any two personal Meta Data in the pre-test 90% of the participants got it wrong while in the post-test 100% got it right. Also when they were asked about bypass technology in the pre-test, 95% got it wrong while in the post-test 85% got it right.
On the first day of the workshop, Mr. Ali Sabo who is the Campaigns and Communications Officer of the Centre for Information Technology and Development (CITAD) opened the workshop with a welcome address and the objectives of the training. Mr. Sabo stated that the workshop was part of the Centre’s initiative on digital inclusion programs and the CITAD’s effort in promoting women inclusion in both decision making on internet process and ensuring the safety of female journalists online. Mr. Sabo also urged the participants to pay attention on what was going to be discussed during the training so that they could be able to learn and pass on the knowledge to their fellow colleagues.
The first technical session was facilitated by Dr. Mu’azu of the Department of Computer Engineering, Bayero University, Kano who took the participants through Understanding Online Gender Harassment. While making her presentation, Dr. Mu’azu said the overall picture of the situation relating to gender and technology has so far been that men have been dominating the field and have left the women behind. Discussing about the importance of women on the net, she stated that women are important actors in the development and to hold them back is to hold back the potential for economic growth. Explaining about the online harassment women face, Dr. Mu’azu said for those that frequently work with the internet, online harassment and cyber bullying are real, they happen tremendously to women at any time, again and again, and the worst online harassment has now gone beyond name calling to include stalking, and sexual harassment which is directly targeted at women.
The second presentation was delivered by Engineer Kamaluddeen Umar, CITAD Technical Officer. Engineer Kamal discussed on the Privacy Online and its Protection. In the presentation, Mr. Umar started with general misconception people have about the internet which he said that many people think cyber-attacks were not very harmful, while others think other people will keep them safe on the Internet, or they were not important enough to be targeted. Mr. Umar said virtually everybody on the planet has his/her personal data i.e., name, address, pictures, email address, bank details, or medical information online which make people vulnerable to attacks if they didn’t safe guard their data carefully. At the end of his presentation, Mr. Kamaluddeen shared some tips that one could use to protect her/his data.
The third presentation, Incognito Browsing was also taken by Engineer Kamaluddeen Umar. Here the participants were taken through the process of browsing safely, how they can take advantage of their browsers security that will alert users when there was security threat. Also in this presentation, the participants were taught how to install add-ons that can steer them away from threats. Moreover, the presenter went further to discuss ways to download with care, how to shop online safely, social media safety tips and how to stay safe on social media. At the end of the presentation, wireless Internet safety tips were highlighted. The first day of the workshop was close with practical activities on speedgeeking.
The second day of the workshop started with a recap of what has been discussed the previous day where each of the participants was asked to state one thing she had learnt from the previous presentations. Then Ali Sabo took the participants Feminists Internet Principles. In this presentation, reasons why feminists internet principles developed, how it came into being and its history were discussed by the presenter. Mr. Sabo also went further to explain the 17 Feminists Internet Principles to the participants. The second presentation on Bypass Technologies followed by Suhail Abdullahi. Mr. Abdullahil started by explaining what encryption is to the participants, its importance and how it is used. Then he took the participants through end-to-end encryption and file extension. Furthermore, Suhail discussed about VPN i.e. how it works and it different types and why individual should use VPN. At the end, Mr. Abdullahi talked about VPN providers and cautioned the participants to always use trusted VPN. In the second day also, Engineer Kamaluddeen discussed with participants Personal Meta Data.
During the training participants raised concerned over their privacy and safety and asked questions on how to be more secured and safe online. Some of the important points raised by the participants were:
- Elizabeth Kah Nange of Bauchi State Television Authority stated that the number of online attacks female journalists especially in the northern part of the country are receiving every day is one of the issue that is driving them away from online platforms such as twitter and Facebook and sometimes even WhatsApp
- Another concern raised by Maryam Bawa a reporter with Solacebase, an Online Newspaper based in Kano was that, females especially journalists and celebrities are being singled out for attacks and government is not doing much to protect them. She gave example with a scenario of what happened with one female celebrity in Kano, where she said her boyfriend shared her nude video online and she was banned from the industry but if this kind of scenario happened to the male actors such kind of punishment are not being served to them
- Bilkisu Ado Zango, chairperson, Association of Women Journalists, Kano State Chapter said female journalists’ vulnerability online is growing everyday as their accounts are constantly being hacked and in many instances the hackers used the opportunities to post nudes pictures and videos. These she said have made many of them to avoid the platforms for fear of their names being ruined
- While speaking on the sexual harassment female journalists face online, Yusuf Ojoma from Adamawa State shared on how men are everyday sending nudes pictures and videos via messenger and asking them to share same and if they refuse to do so they resort to attacks, names spoil, names calling and even sometimes lead to physical harm
Some of the questions asked and answered during the two day workshop were:
- Shaharuza Umar Idris Hinna from Gombe ask on how one could know whether his/her is being hacked
- Another participants asked on the step to follow for two way verifications on Facebook and WhatsApp
- While Su’uda Mustapha inquired about how one could create a strong password and ensure his/her account is not being compromised
- With regard to online harassment, Sekyen Manasseh Dadik asked how they could handle online harassers and where to report them.
Feedbacks from the participants:
- Speaking after the two day workshop, Sekyen Manasseh Dadik of Africa Prime News (APN) stated that this is one of the best training she has ever attended, she continued to mentioned that part of what she has learn is to always be careful with her password and not share it with anyone no matter how close they are. Which she promised to share with her colleagues and family.
- Fatima Lawan Abubakar of Guarantee Radio Kano said one of the things she learnt was creating strong passwords which has combination of words, numbers and characters. She also narrated that before whenever she browse at commercial centres she used to leave her accounts without login out but now she has discovered the dangers of doing that.
- Now I understand fully how dangerous using public WIFI is, before anywhere I see public WIFI as long as there is no password, I quickly connect to it, but with this training and all what has been discussed I will be very careful about using public WIFI said Fibi Kafi of Bauchi State Television Authority.
- With regards to Gender Based Violence Online Female Journalists face in northern Nigeria, Shaharuza Umar Idris Hinna of Amana FM Gombe said this workshop has now widen her understanding of the topic and how to respond to stalkers and those abusers online
- On the Bypass networks and Virtual Private Network, Yusuf Ojoma said before when the Nigerian government ban the use of twitter in the country she resort to using every type of VPN she could find, but with this training she understand that not every VPN one could use as some can be spying on users’ devices, this she said she will take to her fellow colleagues who are also using the VPN to bypass the government ban on twitter
Closing the two day workshop, the Executive Director of CITAD, Malam Yunusa Zakari Ya’u thanked the participants for their commitments throughout the workshop and their passion towards digital inclusion in the country. He went further to state that part of the training curriculum are:
- A five day mentorship training which would be spread over a month, this would be done in order to allow the participants internalised the skills impacted in the first phase and will be guided by a mentor. It is also a stage for the participants to explore in greater depth the topics covered by the first phase.
- Online presentations on certain themes usually of two-hour duration for a total period of 10 hours. Some of the themes to cover are: Safe Communication, Social Network Protection, Digital Hiding, USIGN Signals, Browning using Tor browser, Strategies on how one can protect self-online.
- Individual personal experiential presentation. Each participant is expected to make a learning presentation, drawing from personal experience on how they are able to respond to some privacy or other online challenges
- Public awareness activities: The trained Journalists are to organize meetings to raise awareness about safety online among their fellow journalists and CITAD along with the participants will hold a one-day awareness raising activity on safety and privacy online. During this activity, participants will share various campaign messages on social media, hold online seminar on the subject of digital safety.
- A step down training by the participants to their fellow journalists in their respective states which will be supported by CITAD
At the end he urged the participants to utilize the knowledge gain in the training and take the awareness campaign to their various constituencies.