Rethinking safety: Protecting media freedom in times of crisis

Hosted by DW Akademie and Reporters Without Borders Germany (RSF)
With support from the Federal Ministry of Development and Cooperation (BMZ) and the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung (KAS)
October 5 – 6 at Deutsche Welle, Kurt-Schumacher-Str. 3, Bonn 

While media development requires long-term structures that use a systematic approach, journalists and media outlets must respond immediately to crises. As a result, the safety of media workers is essential to German media development cooperation. Organizations in this field increasingly see themselves compelled to provide emergency aid, crisis intervention, psychosocial help, or support for exiled media actors.

At fome Symposium 2023, we will examine how to deal with the tension between crisis management and sustainable development cooperation, and how to develop a safe environment and secure structures. What should we, as organizations in media development cooperation, consider when providing emergency aid? What problems are likely to be overseen when crises emerge? How do we keep digital, mental, financial and legal security in mind? And how do we communicate this to donors and policymakers?

To buy your ticket today, please visit Symposium 2023 Registration

For the full timetable, please see below.

October 5 



  • Moderation: Aya Ibrahim, Special Correspondent at Deutsche Welle, Egypt/Germany
  • Virtual Keynote: Professor Shirin Ebadi, 2003 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Iran/UK
  • Keynote: Elisa Lees Muñoz, Executive Director, International Women’s Media Foundation, USA

Part I: Digital security 

Journalists increasingly face online violence, hacking, identity theft and surveillance which not only challenges their own digital security but also that of media development organizations. Can improved digital security precautions, awareness campaigns and journalistic training enable media professionals and media development organizations to effectively counter digital threats? These organizations are developing skills regarding forensic labs, advocacy, and strategic collaboration to fight surveillance and hacking, and for safety to play a greater role in their projects. Is this changing the strategy of individual media development organizations or affecting the sector as a whole? Are current measures sufficient for addressing future digital security threats? In which aspects should media development organizations reposition themselves to meet future security-related challenges? The symposium’s “Digital Safety” segment looks at this in terms of threats in the digital space and alignment of strategic approaches, and identifies gaps in managing digital risks. 


Panel: Dealing with security challenges from the digital space
Moderation: Erkanda Bujari, Media Development Professional, Albania
Panel guests:

  • Oleg Khomenok, Member of the Board of Directors of the Global Investigative Journalism Network, Ukraine
  • Dr. Christopher Nehring, Fellow Media Program Southeast Europe, Konrad Adenauer Foundation, Bulgaria
  • Agnieszka Walorska, Expert on AI and Deep Fake, Germany
  • Aymen Zaghdoudi, MENA Senior Policy Counsel, Access Now, Tunisia


Parallel workshops:

Workshop: How would digital security skills become part of media organizational culture?
Hosted by IDEM
Expert: Oleg Khomenok

Workshop: How does a forensic lab against digital surveillance of journalists work?
Hosted by RSF
Expert: Janik Besendorf, Digital Security Expert and Trainer, Germany

Workshop: How does AI threaten journalists and how can it and can it protect them?
Hosted by Friedrich Naumann Foundation and Konrad Adenauer Foundation
Experts: Agnieszka Walorska and Dr. Christopher Nehring
Moderation: tba

Workshop: How does Big Brother jeopardize journalists safety? Legal aspects, policy answers and practical tips
Hosted by DW Akademie
Experts: Aymen Zaghdoudi and Luis Assardo, investigative journalist, researcher and digital security trainer, Guatemala
Moderation: Attila Mong, journalist and consultant, DW Akademie, Hungary/Germany 


Part II: Psychological safety and mental health

Journalists have come under increasing pressure worldwide and in many countries are witness to traumatic events. They can be subject to house searches, death threats or even torture, and online hate speech and other digital threats can add to their psychological stress. Questions around mental resilience are increasing – even in media development projects that are not focusing on journalists’ safety – and not only in acute crises or unstable countries. How, then, can we include these aspects when developing projects and how can media development organizations customize their offers? We will also look at the extent to which media development staff are directly or indirectly confronted with psychological threats, and how to deal with this constructively. 


Panel: Psychological safety and resilience in media development cooperation
Moderation: Timo Lüge, Head of Advocacy and Partnerships, DW Akademie
Panel guests:

  • Gulmina Bilal, Psychologist and Director, Individualland, Pakistan
  • Friederike Engst, Psychologist, Trauma Therapist, Behavior and Communication Trainer, Germany
  • Gavin Rees, Senior Advisor for Training and Innovation, Dart Center, Germany
  • Nils-Alexander Simon, German Armed Forces, Germany


Parallel workshops:

Workshop: How do psychological safety skills become part of the organizational culture of media and media development cooperation?
Hosted by DW Akademie
Experts: Gavin Rees
Moderation: Patricia Noboa Armendariz, Acting Program Director Mexico, Guatemala and El Salvador, DW Akademie

Workshop: Psychological safety and resilience from an international journalist’s perspective
Hosted by RSF
Experts: Ana P. Santos, journalist, researcher, Philippines
Moderation: Peter Steudtner und Marianne Koch, trainers at Holistic Protection Collective, Germany

Workshop: How to mainstream psychological safety/resilience components in media development programs?
Hosted by DW Akademie and ECPMF
Experts: Gulmina Bilal, Friederike Engst
Moderation: tba

Workshop: How to deal with the pressures of reporting in and on war?
Hosted by IDEM
Experts: Nils-Alexander Simon


Evening program


October 6 

Part III: Learning from crises – The politics of media development 

Current crises pose major threats to media workers, making it vital for media development organizations to look at how to ensure the safety of journalists on the ground. While some organizations unwillingly become responsible for providing safe passage to journalists, others see it as an opportunity and adopt new approaches to developing projects and allocating resources. This requires intense discussions with policy makers and questions arise: to what extent does this alter – if at all – the organization’s mandate or the agenda of media development cooperation? Can policy makers provide adequate resources so that organizations can continue with existing projects and develop new ones? Media development organizations are working closely with state institutions and, for example, were involved in evacuating journalists from Afghanistan after the Taliban took power. However, there can also be limits to cooperation. So how can funders, security forces, media development organizations and their partners develop ways to collaborate successfully? 


Panel I: Safety as our mandate?
Moderation: Katja Heinemann, RSF
Panel guests:

  • Margarita Akhvlediani, Managing Editor, JAM News, Georgia
  • Elisabet Cantenys, Executive Director, ACOS Alliance, UK
  • Antonia Eser-Ruperti, Junior Professional Officer Freedom of Expression and Safety of Journalists, UNESCO, France
  • Martin Faye, Fondation Hirondelle’s Representative a.i in Mali
  • Johannes Metzler, Journalist and Head of Unit Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean DW Akademie, Germany


Parallel workshops:

Workshop: Critical review of media development in Afghanistan before Taliban takeover
Hosted by MICT
Experts: Dr. Anja Wollenberg, Founder & Head of Research, MiCT and Dr. Hazrat Bahar, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, University Leipzig, Germany

Workshop: Legal residence opportunities in Germany for media professionals under threat
Hosted by ECPMF
Experts: Carsten Ilius, Lawyer, Germany

Workshop: Hit hard, fallen softly? Dilemmas of the international promotion of exile media
Hosted by n-ost and Friedrich Naumann Foundation
Experts: Margarita Akhvlediani, Managing Editor, JAM News, Georgia and Natalia Belikova, Acting Director, Belarus Press Club, Poland

Workshop: What about exiled freelancers?
Hosted by RSF
Experts: Daria N., Project Manager, ECPMF, Germany and Mayss Shehawi, Freelance Journalist, Syria/Germany


Panel II: Talking to policymakers
Moderation: Johannes Metzler
Panel guests:

  • Stefanie Harter, Head of the Section Governance and Human Rights, GIZ, Germany
  • Matthias Kiesler, Head of the Division International Media Policy, Federal Foreign Office, Germany
  • Christian Mihr, Managing Director, RSF Germany, Germany
  • Carsten von Nahmen, Managing Director, DW Akademie, Germany


Part IV: Feminist development cooperation 

Worldwide, women and ethnic minorities who work in the media are especially vulnerable and thus require special protection and support. But how does this translate into concrete forms and  “feminist development cooperation” which advocates equal participation of everyone in social, political and civic life? How can the safety of media workers from LGBTQI+ and BIPOC communities, and journalists with disabilities, be correctly assessed and their media presence and representation increased? Is a comprehensive change of perspective needed to strengthen the safety of these communities, or is it only applicable to specific projects? Which projects can put the spotlight on feminist development cooperationgoals, and how? Where should these goals be more clearly reflected? What potiential do these goals have in crisis situations and where do dangers lie?


Panel: Going beyond protection: An integrative framework of security
Moderation: Aya Ibrahim, Special Correspondent at Deutsche Welle, Egypt/Germany
Panel guests:

  • Laura Aguirre, Co-founder and director, Alharaca and fundraising coordinator of Sembramedia, El Salvador
  • Koliwe Majama, Senior Program Officer, Mozilla Foundation, Zimbabwe
  • Dr. Sonja Katharina Schiffers, Director, Heinrich Boell Foundation Tbilisi Office, South Caucasus Region, Georgia
  • Elisa Lees Muñoz, Executive Director, International Women’s Media Foundation, USA

For full timetable see: fome 2023 timetable

* program and titles may be subject to changes