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Your Security: Help and Guidance

Your Security: Help and Guidance

Here are some key things to consider when filling in your security assessment form.

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This section was written in collaboration with Article 19 - East Africa and Protection International - East Africa.

Your Country of Exile

Knowing as much as you can about your country of exile is crucial in understanding the risks that you might face as a refugee and/or journalist, and how you might reduce them.  Make sure to gather as much information as possible, on e.g. the political climate, cost of living, local attitudes to refugees, etc., both from fellow refugees as well as locals. And make sure it's current and accurate.

Be aware that your situation can be influenced by political events not only in your country of exile, but also back home.  So you'll need to be constantly aware of developments in both locations.

Talking to other journalists in exile could help you to understand your own security situation, but beware endangering your own or their safety.  And be aware that some people may have an agenda that would affect what they are telling you.

Do some research online. Safety guides and reports available online can also give you valuable information. Here are a few examples:
These are especially useful if you are working or planning to work as a journalist in Kenya and Uganda.

Daily Life

Changing some of your daily patterns or aspects of your life could help to make you safer.  So consider carefully the things that you do as part of your daily life.
Think about the areas you visit, and the modes of transport you take (for example, is it safer for you to travel by shared taxi than by individual taxi? Or vice-versa?).
If you are working, or planning to work as a journalist, make sure you talk to local journalists, who can inform you of the media landscape and culture. Things may vary depending on the stories you cover and people you interview.
Think about the legal aspects of working as a journalist in the country in which you live. Do you need to register in order to practice?

You and Your Dependents' Profile 

Are there increased risks as a result of your gender, age, ethnicity, religious beliefs or nationality? What about those living with you?
This isn't about how you perceive yourself, but how others may perceive you - both as a member of your community and as an individual.
Talk to locals and exiles and try to get a feel of people's perceptions. Be aware of your image and presence through social networks, and consider any past affiliations, jobs, assignments and incidents that may compromise your safety. This is especially important as it relates to your previous work, and the reason why you went into exile.
Your dependents can be members of your family or other people who live with you, and those living in another location, such as your country of origin. Think about how their profile affects you, and how your profile affects them.


Refugees often feel easier remaining within their own community. This is not always the best option, especially if you have been individually targeted. Many journalists in exile are exposed to regular threats, and sometimes changing accommodation is enough to minimise these risks.
If you live in a refugee camp, be aware that they have rules of their own. Assess those as soon as possible. Try to talk to other journalists in exile in the refugee camp.

Legal Status

Residing illegally in a country puts you at risk in various ways.  You will not be able to access benefits, and can face other dangers, such as petty harassment from officials and deportation.

If you're a refugee in Kenya or Uganda, we've created a resource to help you with their' refugee processes.


Be sure to document any temporary or chronic illnesses to fully assess your vulnerability to risk.
Healthcare programmes and free clinics are available in East Africa, even though they are sometimes difficult to access. Talk to locals about what you are entitled to and research the costs of healthcare in your country of refuge. The local officers of refugee support organisations, including the UNHCR, should have access to this information.


When communicating online, remember that digital communications can be traced; make sure you communicate securely. You might find RPT's digital security resource useful. 

You might also find the Red Cross's international service for "restoring family links" useful. The International Committee of the Red Cross works around the world to locate people and put them back into contact with their relatives. This work includes looking for family members, restoring contact, reuniting families and seeking to clarify the fate of those who remain missing.

Future Plans

Picturing yourself in the future can help to place current events in context, and allow you to design appropriate, forward-thinking responses to threats. For example, re-locating to a different area or city might be a good idea, not only for safety reasons but for work reasons too.  Being in a major town or capital city might not be the best option. 
Try to think outside the box.  Third-country relocation might be very tempting or appear to be the only way out of a difficult situation, but remember there may be other options available, which could be more appropriate and viable for you in the long-term.


If you are being threatened, have been attacked or are victim of other relevant incidents, it's a good idea to make a record of these, with evidence if possible (recordings, pictures, etc if the threats are by phone or letter). Just make sure you don't put yourself in danger in the process.  Try to understand whether these threats or attacks are single events or whether they are part of a pattern.
Notify media support organisations of relevant incidents, and keep them updated with any developments. You should also notify the police and local authorities if you think it is safe for you to do so.
Try to assess whether these threats carry real value, or are just meant to make you afraid.

Image: Baron Shitemi by Kate Holt/Internews 

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