Journalists represent an integral aspect of any society. They provide citizens with novel vantage points of the world, fuel informed debate, and bring to light that which might otherwise remain hidden. Yet, all over the world, many are targeted for their essential work.

On the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists, the United Nations recognizes the need to push for stronger protection of journalists and demand justice for those who do them harm. According to the UN, 930 journalists have been killed in the line of duty in the past 11 years. And in 90 per cent of those cases, the perpetrators of this violence have gone unpunished.

Several Citizen Lab reports have highlighted the digital threats that journalists face. In the past year alone, we’ve investigated three separate cases where journalists and news outlets have been the targets of online harassment, manipulation, and persecution:

Reckless Exploit

The phishing scandal that has rocked Mexico for months began with a long list of targets that included many journalists. Using government-exclusive spyware technology provided by NSO Group, reporters—many of whom were critical of Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto—received text messages that, when clicked, would give the sender unfettered access to their phones. One of the targets of these phishing attempts was Emilio Aristegui, son of well known journalist Carmen Aristegui and a minor at the time of the attack.

Insider Information

This report details a complicated phishing, reconnaissance, and malware campaign against Chinese language news websites, which used near-identical replicates of content management systems to lure journalists into divulging their log-in information.

Tainted Leaks

Documents stolen from David Satter, a prominent journalist and critic of the Russian government, were manipulated and then released as a “leak” to discredit domestic and foreign critics of the government.

For more information, see the official website the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists.