Sophisticated tools of surveillance have the potential to undermine this, either by design or accident.
Digital technology provides multiplying possibilities for state agencies and others to undermine bonds of trust between journalists and their sources. Telephone records may be accessed. Electronic communications can be monitored. Historic information stored on digital platforms can be copied. Facial recognition technology can be used to link individuals in each others company. Artificial intelligence can be deployed to recognise patterns of contact.
The rights of whistleblowers should be defined in law. National and international law should also afford journalists the means to ensure discretion in their work. Where are state agency seeks to compel a journalist is legally required to disclose sources of information or other professionally obtained material, application should be in public and subject to judicial oversight.
Journalists must redouble efforts to safeguard their own data. This must include using multiple phones, including ‘burners’ that are less susceptible to Pegasus’ hacking, as well as adopting ‘tradecraft’ to ensure that their phones do not have the potential to betray their every move and provide a ringside seat for their most sensitive meetings.
Governments must enshrine in domestic law the inviolability of journalists’ communications both abstractly and in the framing of specific laws and regulations such as those on domestic surveillance. Any dilution of such protections should be resisted.
The international community must build a regulatory regime that allows the inspection and regulation of any and all organisations supplying products that have the capacity to undermine such critical freedoms.