Journalists will band together to fight intimidation

“The threats journalism faces are profound and evolving. So is our capacity to respond.”

Earlier this month, a group of journalists at the independent Central American news outlet El Faro joined forces with the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University to file a lawsuit in U.S. federal court.

The subject of the suit: the Israeli company NSO Group, whose Pegasus spyware is sold to governments around the world and, the complaint alleges, was used in violation of U.S. law to penetrate the journalists’ iPhones and monitor their activities.

“These spyware attacks were an attempt to silence our sources and deter us from doing journalism,” Carlos Dada, co-founder and director of El Faro, said in the announcement of the lawsuit. “We are filing this lawsuit to defend our right to investigate and report, and to protect journalists around the world in their pursuit of the truth.”

Journalists like those at El Faro, who are doing investigative work that holds power to account and exposes corruption, are no strangers to threats, intimidation, incarceration and even violence. These are realities that we’ve chronicled extensively at Frontline: people and governments target accountability journalists in order to kill their stories and keep sources from speaking out. In recent years, though, the threat environment for journalists has intensified to include new and sophisticated challenges, like the powerful hacking tool, Pegasus.

In fact, after the journalism nonprofit Forbidden Stories received a leak of thousands of phone numbers it suspected had been selected for potential Pegasus targeting, and convened a consortium of 17 news outlets including Frontline to investigate with the technical support of Amnesty International Security Lab, our collaborative Pegasus Project reporting found that among the numbers on the list were those of journalists whose work exposed government corruption.

Forbidden Stories is dedicated to continuing the work of jailed, threatened or assassinated journalists. (Their official motto: “Killing the journalist won’t kill the story.”) To Forbidden Stories’ founder Laurent Richard, the invasive ways in which Pegasus could be used to put journalists and their sources at risk, coupled with the largely unregulated nature of the spyware industry, signaled a new era of threats to journalism.

“Pegasus is like a person over your shoulder — a person who will see what you are seeing, a person who would watch what you are watching, your emails, your encrypted communication, everything. So once you are infected, you’re trapped,” he says in our upcoming January documentary series on the Pegasus spyware scandal.

NSO Group, which has disputed some of the Pegasus Project’s reporting, has publicly insisted that it “has no insight” into how the governments it sells to use Pegasus spyware but says it investigates credible claims of misuse. The company says it sells Pegasus to governments for “the sole purpose of preventing and investigating terror and serious crime.” Yet our collaborative Pegasus Project investigation found that NSO sold Pegasus to governments who used the spyware to track dissidents, journalists and activists.

I believe that, unfortunately, in the year to come, threats to journalists — and to journalism itself — will continue to grow and evolve in troubling, technologically advanced, and at times undetectable ways.

But I also believe that journalists will keep doing their jobs, and that they will band together in new ways to meet the moment and fight back against intimidation — as El Faro and the Knight Institute are doing in this lawsuit; as Nobel Peace Prize laureate Maria Ressa is doing through coalition-building in the Philippines; and as Forbidden Stories and other news organizations are doing through the Pegasus Project.

Part of the fight back is to report unflinchingly on what happens when journalists come under attack — to seek and tell the unvarnished truth, in forensic detail. At Frontline, in the year ahead, that’s exactly what we’ll do. We’ve been filming with Dmitry Muratov, the Nobel Peace Prize-winning journalist in Russia who is in Moscow fighting authorities’ court cases against the independent newspaper he co-founded, Novaya Gazeta. We’re continuing to probe the assault on press freedom in the Philippines.

And next month, in our globe-spanning two-part docuseries with Forbidden Stories and Forbidden Films, we’ll chronicle how journalists uncovered the Pegasus spyware scandal, how they learned that other journalists had potentially been targeted, and how — in another example of journalism evolving to meet the moment — they fought tech with tech: joining forces with Amnesty International’s Security Lab, who performed forensic analysis on a number of phones to try to determine whether they had been targeted with and infected with Pegasus.

The threats journalism faces are profound and evolving. It’s a good thing that so, too, is our capacity to respond.

Raney Aronson-Rath is editor-in-chief and executive producer of Frontline.

Earlier this month, a group of journalists at the independent Central American news outlet El Faro joined forces with the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University to file a lawsuit in U.S. federal court.

The subject of the suit: the Israeli company NSO Group, whose Pegasus spyware is sold to governments around the world and, the complaint alleges, was used in violation of U.S. law to penetrate the journalists’ iPhones and monitor their activities.

“These spyware attacks were an attempt to silence our sources and deter us from doing journalism,” Carlos Dada, co-founder and director of El Faro, said in the announcement of the lawsuit. “We are filing this lawsuit to defend our right to investigate and report, and to protect journalists around the world in their pursuit of the truth.”

Journalists like those at El Faro, who are doing investigative work that holds power to account and exposes corruption, are no strangers to threats, intimidation, incarceration and even violence. These are realities that we’ve chronicled extensively at Frontline: people and governments target accountability journalists in order to kill their stories and keep sources from speaking out. In recent years, though, the threat environment for journalists has intensified to include new and sophisticated challenges, like the powerful hacking tool, Pegasus.

In fact, after the journalism nonprofit Forbidden Stories received a leak of thousands of phone numbers it suspected had been selected for potential Pegasus targeting, and convened a consortium of 17 news outlets including Frontline to investigate with the technical support of Amnesty International Security Lab, our collaborative Pegasus Project reporting found that among the numbers on the list were those of journalists whose work exposed government corruption.

Forbidden Stories is dedicated to continuing the work of jailed, threatened or assassinated journalists. (Their official motto: “Killing the journalist won’t kill the story.”) To Forbidden Stories’ founder Laurent Richard, the invasive ways in which Pegasus could be used to put journalists and their sources at risk, coupled with the largely unregulated nature of the spyware industry, signaled a new era of threats to journalism.

“Pegasus is like a person over your shoulder — a person who will see what you are seeing, a person who would watch what you are watching, your emails, your encrypted communication, everything. So once you are infected, you’re trapped,” he says in our upcoming January documentary series on the Pegasus spyware scandal.

NSO Group, which has disputed some of the Pegasus Project’s reporting, has publicly insisted that it “has no insight” into how the governments it sells to use Pegasus spyware but says it investigates credible claims of misuse. The company says it sells Pegasus to governments for “the sole purpose of preventing and investigating terror and serious crime.” Yet our collaborative Pegasus Project investigation found that NSO sold Pegasus to governments who used the spyware to track dissidents, journalists and activists.

I believe that, unfortunately, in the year to come, threats to journalists — and to journalism itself — will continue to grow and evolve in troubling, technologically advanced, and at times undetectable ways.

But I also believe that journalists will keep doing their jobs, and that they will band together in new ways to meet the moment and fight back against intimidation — as El Faro and the Knight Institute are doing in this lawsuit; as Nobel Peace Prize laureate Maria Ressa is doing through coalition-building in the Philippines; and as Forbidden Stories and other news organizations are doing through the Pegasus Project.

Part of the fight back is to report unflinchingly on what happens when journalists come under attack — to seek and tell the unvarnished truth, in forensic detail. At Frontline, in the year ahead, that’s exactly what we’ll do. We’ve been filming with Dmitry Muratov, the Nobel Peace Prize-winning journalist in Russia who is in Moscow fighting authorities’ court cases against the independent newspaper he co-founded, Novaya Gazeta. We’re continuing to probe the assault on press freedom in the Philippines.

And next month, in our globe-spanning two-part docuseries with Forbidden Stories and Forbidden Films, we’ll chronicle how journalists uncovered the Pegasus spyware scandal, how they learned that other journalists had potentially been targeted, and how — in another example of journalism evolving to meet the moment — they fought tech with tech: joining forces with Amnesty International’s Security Lab, who performed forensic analysis on a number of phones to try to determine whether they had been targeted with and infected with Pegasus.

The threats journalism faces are profound and evolving. It’s a good thing that so, too, is our capacity to respond.

Raney Aronson-Rath is editor-in-chief and executive producer of Frontline.

Michael W. Wagner   The backlash against pro-democracy reporting is coming

Lisa Heyamoto   The independent news industry gets a roadmap to sustainability

Christina Shih   Shared values move from nice-to-haves to essentials

Surya Mattu   Data journalists learn from photojournalists

An Xiao Mina   Journalism in a time of permacrisis

A.J. Bauer   Covering the right wrong

Amethyst J. Davis   The slight of the great contraction

Emily Nonko   Incarcerated reporters get more bylines

J. Siguru Wahutu   American journalism reckons with its colonialist tendencies

Francesco Zaffarano   There is no end of “social media”

Andrew Donohue   We’ll find out whether journalism can, indeed, save democracy

Mael Vallejo   More threats to press freedom across the Americas

David Cohn   AI made this prediction

Kathy Lu   We need emotionally agile newsroom leaders

Nicholas Jackson   There will be launches — and we’ll keep doing the work

Janelle Salanga   Journalists work from a place of harm reduction

Eric Thurm   Journalists think of themselves as workers

Josh Schwartz   The AI spammers are coming

Sue Robinson   Engagement journalism will have to confront a tougher reality

Esther Kezia Thorpe   Subscription pressures force product innovation

Kaitlin C. Miller   Harassment in journalism won’t get better, but we’ll talk about it more openly

Karina Montoya   More reporters on the antitrust beat

Priyanjana Bengani   Partisan local news networks will collaborate

Sam Gregory   Synthetic media forces us to understand how media gets made

Megan Lucero and Shirish Kulkarni   The future of journalism is not you

Eric Holthaus   As social media fragments, marginalized voices gain more power

Jaden Amos   TikTok personality journalists continue to rise

Sarabeth Berman   Nonprofit local news shows that it can scale

Burt Herman   The year AI truly arrives — and with it the reckoning

Tim Carmody   Newsletter writers need a new ethics

Cari Nazeer and Emily Goligoski   News organizations step up their support for caregivers

Hillary Frey   Death to the labor-intensive memo for prospective hires

Mary Walter-Brown and Tristan Loper   Mission-driven metrics become our North Star

Anita Varma   Journalism prioritizes the basic need for survival

Paul Cheung   More news organizations will realize they are in the business of impact, not eyeballs

Snigdha Sur   Newsrooms get nimble in a recession

Jenna Weiss-Berman   The economic downturn benefits the podcasting industry. (No, really!)

Zizi Papacharissi   Platforms are over

Tamar Charney   Flux is the new stability

Jonas Kaiser   Rejecting the “free speech” frame

Jesse Holcomb   Buffeted, whipped, bullied, pulled

Richard Tofel   The press might get better at vetting presidential candidates

Anika Anand   Independent news businesses lead the way on healthy work cultures

Pia Frey   Publishers start polling their users at scale

Gabe Schneider   Well-funded journalism leaders stop making disparate pay

Rachel Glickhouse   Humanizing newsrooms will be a badge of honor

Susan Chira   Equipping local journalism

Gordon Crovitz   The year advertisers stop funding misinformation

Elite Truong   In platform collapse, an opportunity for community

Brian Stelter   Finding new ways to reach news avoiders

Moreno Cruz Osório   Brazilian journalism turns wounds into action

Alex Perry   New paths to transparency without Twitter

Sarah Stonbely   Growth in public funding for news and information at the state and local levels

Jody Brannon   We’ll embrace policy remedies

Ariel Zirulnick   Journalism doubles down on user needs

Leezel Tanglao   Community partnerships drive better reporting

Barbara Raab   More journalism funders will take more risks

Peter Sterne   AI enters the newsroom

Ayala Panievsky   It’s time for PR for journalism

Martina Efeyini   Talk to Gen Z. They’re the experts of Gen Z.

Simon Galperin   Philanthropy stops investing in corporate media

Felicitas Carrique and Becca Aaronson   News product goes from trend to standard

Upasna Gautam   Technology that performs at the speed of news

Basile Simon   Towards supporting criminal accountability

Jennifer Choi and Jonathan Jackson   Funders finally bet on next-generation news entrepreneurs

S. Mitra Kalita   “Everything sucks. Good luck to you.”

Kavya Sukumar   Belling the cat: The rise of independent fact-checking at scale

Johannes Klingebiel   The innovation team, R.I.P.

Al Lucca   Digital news design gets interesting again

Jakob Moll   Journalism startups will think beyond English

Doris Truong   Workers demand to be paid what the job is worth

Delano Massey   The industry shakes its imposter syndrome

Tre'vell Anderson   Continued culpability in anti-trans campaigns

Sam Guzik   AI will start fact-checking. We may not like the results.

Anna Nirmala   News organizations get new structures

David Skok   Renewed interest in human-powered reporting

Cory Bergman   The AI content flood

Julia Angwin   Democracies will get serious about saving journalism

Elizabeth Bramson-Boudreau   More of the same

Julia Beizer   News fatigue shows us a clear path forward

Christoph Mergerson   The rot at the core of the news business

Nicholas Diakopoulos   Journalists productively harness generative AI tools

Jessica Maddox   Journalists keep getting manipulated by internet culture

Nicholas Thompson   The year AI actually changes the media business

Matt Rasnic   More newsroom workers turn to organized labor

Sue Cross   Thinking and acting collectively to save the news

Parker Molloy   We’ll reach new heights of moral panic

Daniel Trielli   Trust in news will continue to fall. Just look at Brazil.

Nikki Usher   This is the year of the RSS reader. (Really!)

Taylor Lorenz   The “creator economy” will be astroturfed

Joanne McNeil   Facebook and the media kiss and make up

Brian Moritz   Rebuilding the news bundle

Sue Schardt   Toward a new poetics of journalism

Larry Ryckman   We’ll work together with our competitors

Jarrad Henderson   Video editing will help people understand the media they consume

Kirstin McCudden   We’ll codify protection of journalism and newsgathering

Shanté Cosme   The answer to “quiet quitting” is radical empathy

Walter Frick   Journalists wake up to the power of prediction markets

Laxmi Parthasarathy   Unlocking the silent demand for international journalism

Kerri Hoffman   Podcasting goes local

Dannagal G. Young   Stop rewarding elite performances of identity threat

Rodney Gibbs   Recalibrating how we work apart

Eric Nuzum   A focus on people instead of power

Alexandra Borchardt   The year of the climate journalism strategy

Alan Henry   A reckoning with why trust in news is so low

Bill Adair   The year of the fact-check (no, really!)

Jacob L. Nelson   Despite it all, people will still want to be journalists

Mario García   More newsrooms go mobile-first

Jessica Clark   Open discourse retrenches

Peter Bale   Rising costs force more digital innovation

Ryan Kellett   Airline-like loyalty programs try to tie down news readers

Khushbu Shah   Global reporting will suffer

Victor Pickard   The year journalism and capitalism finally divorce

Ryan Gantz   “I’m sorry, but I’m a large language model”

Don Day   The news about the news is bad. I’m optimistic.

Cindy Royal   Yes, journalists should learn to code, but…

Jim Friedlich   Local journalism steps up to the challenge of civic coverage

Ståle Grut   Your newsroom experiences a Midjourney-gate, too

Andrew Losowsky   Journalism realizes the replacement for Twitter is not a new Twitter

Joni Deutsch   Podcast collaboration — not competition — breeds excellence

Sumi Aggarwal   Smart newsrooms will prioritize board development

Jennifer Brandel   AI couldn’t care less. Journalists will care more. 

Janet Haven   ChatGPT and the future of trust 

Jim VandeHei   There is no “peak newsletter”

Dominic-Madori Davis   Everyone finally realizes the need for diverse voices in tech reporting

Michael Schudson   Journalism gets more and more difficult

Wilson Liévano   Diaspora journalism takes the next step

Anthony Nadler   Confronting media gerrymandering

Danielle K. Brown and Kathleen Searles   DEI efforts must consider mental health and online abuse

Mauricio Cabrera   It’s no longer about audiences, it’s about communities

Ben Werdmuller   The internet is up for grabs again

Sarah Marshall   A web channel strategy won’t be enough

Errin Haines   Journalists on the campaign trail mend trust with the public

Raney Aronson-Rath   Journalists will band together to fight intimidation

Bill Grueskin   Local news will come to rely on AI

Kaitlyn Wells   We’ll prioritize media literacy for children

Valérie Bélair-Gagnon   Well-being will become a core tenet of journalism

Sarah Alvarez   Dream bigger or lose out

Emma Carew Grovum   The year to resist forgetting about diversity

Juleyka Lantigua   Newsrooms recognize women of color as the canaries in the coal mine

Joshua P. Darr   Local to live, wire to wither

Gina Chua   The traditional story structure gets deconstructed

Alex Sujong Laughlin   Credit where it’s due

Stefanie Murray   The year U.S. media stops screwing around and becomes pro-democracy

Ryan Nave   Citizen journalism, but make it equitable

Joe Amditis   AI throws a lifeline to local publishers

Alexandra Svokos   Working harder to reach audiences where they are

Mariana Moura Santos   A woman who speaks is a woman who changes the world

Mar Cabra   The inevitable mental health revolution

Cassandra Etienne   Local news fellowships will help fight newsroom inequities

Amy Schmitz Weiss   Journalism education faces a crossroads

John Davidow   A year of intergenerational learning

Eric Ulken   Generative AI brings wrongness at scale

Molly de Aguiar and Mandy Van Deven   Narrative change trend brings new money to journalism

Dana Lacey   Tech will screw publishers over

Masuma Ahuja   Journalism starts working for and with its communities

Laura E. Davis   The year we embrace the robots — and ourselves