Frequently Asked Questions

A. Courses and Training
B. Giving Back
C. Other Services

Please contact either GJS executive director Frank Smyth or GJS strategic director Matt Hansen if you have any questions not answered below or wish to discuss training or make arrangements. You may reach Frank via email at frank AT journalistsecurity DOT net, or by phone at +1 202-352-1736. You may reach Matt via email at matt AT journalistsecurity DOT net. You may send an encrypted message to Matt using his PGP key.

A. Courses and Training

How do I book a course?

To reserve a place for a course, please visit our booking site, send an email to gjs AT journalistsecurity DOT net, or call +1 202-352-1736. We accept major credit cards and other forms of payment.

Freelance journalists may apply for grants for our 5-Day HEFAT and other summer courses from either the London-based Rory Peck Trust or the Toronto-based Canadian Journalism Forum on Violence and Trauma Forum Freelance Fund.

What types of students take GJS courses?

Unless otherwise indicated, classes are open to nonprofit, non-governmental organization or NGO workers, journalists, human rights monitors, humanitarian and development professionals, scientists, academics and corporate professionals involved in fields including health, development, education, relief, media development and conflict resolution. Classes may be given a geographic or cultural orientation depending upon the combined interests of the group. We also offer private, tailored classes on demand for both news and nonprofit organizations, as well as private firms and multilateral organizations.

Will NGOs find these courses useful?

Despite what our name might suggest, most of our clients are NGOs. NGO personnel may sign-up individually for our public classes. We also regularly offer private classes on demand.

What do these courses cover?

Our most frequent courses cover Hostile Environments & Emergency First-Aid Training (HEFAT). Other courses including Avoidance, Deterrence, Escape Training (ADET), and Compassion Fatigue & Personal Self-Care are available on demand.

What about digital safety?

Basic digital safety practices are covered in some of the longer HEFAT courses. GJS also offers cutting-edge digital safety training workshops to newsrooms, NGOs, and other organizations via our team of experienced digital safety experts.

How big are GJS courses?

Most courses are capped at 16 trainees. We find that a more spontaneous, dnyamic and instructive environment is generated when we have mixed groups involving combinations of NGO workers, journalists and others. For larger courses, we provide extra training personnel to keep the instructor-to-trainee ratio effectively low.

What happens if a course is cancelled?

Courses may be cancelled if there is insufficient enrollment, or, in most cases, less than 8 trainees per course; if a course were cancelled, pre-paid clients would be refunded in full or have the option to roll over their tuition to a future course.

Where are courses held?

Most classes take place in the Washington, D.C. area. We offer courses in East Africa several times a year at locations including Nairobi, Kampala, Goma and Bujumbura. We have also run security workshops in Miami, Paris, New York City, San Salvador and Amman, among other cities. Our DC-based classes are based out of the popular Dupont Circle area of northwest Washington. Transportation from Dupont Circle to all training locations is included. Meals including breakfast and lunch at all remote locations are also now included. Lodging is not included. However, GJS can help make reduced-rate reservations at select hotels in the Dupont Circle area, and at the hotel hosting our training courses in Nairobi.

What types of facilities does GJS use during training?

Our Washington-area training facilities include:

  • our “Old City Square” indoor training arena located in a 5,500 square foot warehouse which we have customized to model the twisting alleyways of a Medina and other dense, urban environments
  • “The Farm” or our 150 acre outdoor training compound of rolling farmland and woods
  • “The Woods,” a smaller outdoor area offering open fields and rugged wooded terrain.

How can I choose the course that’s right for me?

CurriculumDescription
HEFAT Five-DayFull, five-day Hostile Environments & Emergency First-Aid or HEFAT classes are recommended (and required by many development agencies and media outlets) at least once every three years. We're available to help you determine the best option for yourself or your group.
HEFAT Three-DayWe also offer a popular three-day HEFAT class covering essential skills that is also appropriate for many individuals heading into the field.
Personal SafetyEvery GJS HEFAT class, like nearly every GJS class, includes basic personal safety, situational awareness and emotional self-care.
Compassion FatigueThe Compassion Fatigue and Emotional Self-Care Workshops are recommended for individuals whose work repeatedly exposes them to human tragedies whether they interact with activists, journalists or their families face-to-face or over the phone, or via other technologies. (Available on demand.)
Hostile Mobs and Group Sexual AggressionEvery GJS HEFAT class includes modules focusing on group dynamics, such as navigating hostile mobs designed to help avoid and deter group sexual aggression. The full HEFAT course with an Emphasis on Civil Unrest offers opportunities to further hone skills to better navigate civil unrest including how to help avoid and deter mob or other group violence.
Assault and RapeWe offer a two-day workshop on demand on Avoidance, Deterrence, Escape (ADET) is recommended for women and men living or working in environments where individual assault and rape poses an active risk. We also incorporate sexual assault awareness & avoidance into all of our HEFAT classes.

Does GJS offer courses specifically for photojournalists?

Many photojournalists attend our standard training courses. However, our 2-Day HEFAT Active Shooter/Civil Unrest is designed with U.S.-based domestic journalists including photojournalists in mind. We are also currently designing an integrated digital and physical security course for videographers including camera operators, photojournalists and citizen journalists operating in repressive environments. The course is designed to help them safely navigate physical contingencies including civil unrest, attacks, and attempts to steal equipment, and various technologies to be able to immediately upload and store sensitive images while deleting them from handheld or other on-the-ground devices.

Does GJS curriculum cover the use of satellite phones?

We are also designing a Five-Day HEFAT course for frontline journalists and human rights investigators that will include best practice for safe use of Satellite Phones in frontline zones under active electronic surveillance.

What types of digital safety courses does GJS offer?

We offer a comprehensive, levels-based series of workshops on digital safety which are outlined here.

In addition, we can also offer standalone workshops on the following topics:

Digital Safety for Internet Repressive Environments: Designed for environments where electronic surveillance by state authorities, irregular forces or criminal actors is common, the class helps human rights activists, development professionals, journalists and citizen journalists learn how to safely store information and communicate with sources and each other in nations including but not at all limited to China, Vietnam, Pakistan, Somalia, Ethiopia, Syria, Egypt, Cuba and Mexico.

Digital Safety for National Security Environments: Limited to working national security reporters, the class is designed to help journalists covering stories involving U.S. national security or related matters understand the potential risks from U.S. agencies to their electronic information and communications. The curriculum includes concepts, threat modeling, potential tools including strengths and weakness, and knowledge and practice of their effective use. The class includes notable guest speakers from the Internet Freedom, digital security and other communities.

Does GJS offer custom classes?

GJS customizes courses to fit specific geographic and other needs on demand. We first evaluate the specific operations and needs of your organization. We will design courses to match specific geographic conditions including active threats and cultural mores, while also following your group’s specific operational protocols.

Does GJS offer training at locations selected by a client?

Yes. GJS provides on-site courses and workshops on demand. These can range from one-day workshops on workplace trauma and emotional self-care, to two-, three-, or five-day courses on Hostile Environments & Emergency First-Aid. Every course can be conducted on-site.

How does payment work for the course?

Payment in advance is required to reserve a space for a class, unless other, specific arrangements have been made.

A full refund (minus an up to 5 percent finance charge on credit cards and wire transfers) will be provided for any individual cancellation made at least 72 hours before the start of any class or the trainee may elect to roll over their tuition as a credit for a future course. Any individual cancellation made within 72 hours of the start of class may be assessed a 50 percent cancellation fee. We may also offer a credit if a trainee becomes ill on the eve of class.

Will refunds be issued if courses are cancelled?

If a course were to be cancelled due to an officially-declared weather or other emergency, we would offer all trainees either a full refund or the opportunity to reschedule the course.

What are the terms of GJS’ invoices?

If we send an invoice for a course or service, payment must be made within 30 days, after which a 5 percent finance charge will be assessed.

B. Giving Back

Does GJS offer pro bono training?

GJS has long helped train at least one qualified, independent human rights activist or freelance journalist pro bono for every 12 paid trainees, in addition to offering other qualified independent activists and freelance journalists training at subsidized rates.

How can freelance journalists secure funding for a GJS course?

Starting in 2015, GJS has partnered with the U.K.-based charity the Rory Peck Trust to help provide support for freelance journalists, especially camera operators and photojournalists, to receive Hostile Environments & Emergency First-Aid Training. GJS is the only Rory Peck Trust approved, full-time training provider based in the United States. In the spring of 2016 we also became approved by the Canadian Forum for Journalism and Trauma Forum Freelance Fund which also helps subsidize training for qualified freelance journalists.

What about other groups that need training but can’t afford it?

GJS works with donors and nonprofit groups to provide security training at reduced costs to individuals and small nonprofit groups most in need, and to provide pro bono advice to groups like World Pulse.

Does GJS provide donor-funded training?

GJS partnered with the International Women’s Media Foundation to provide regular security training to both international and local women journalists on location in sub-Saharan Africa through 2016. We provided the training before the women journalists embarked on reporting in nations including the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda, Central African Republic and South Sudan.

We also work with donors and nonprofit organizations to provide appropriate, innovative and integrated physical, digital and emotional self-care security training to high-risk human rights activists, journalists and citizen journalists in nations around the world including Syria and Mexico.

In 2013, GJS was chosen to provide two weeks of intensive, integrated physical, digital and emotional self-care training to high-risk journalists from Central America, East Africa and the Caucasus as part of the State Department Democracy, Human Rights & Labor Securing Access to Free Expression project.

C. Other Services

Does GJS provide risk assessments and analysis?

Yes. GJS provides customized, independent risk assessments and consulting services for organizations responsible for sending or maintaining people in the field.

Does GJS provide kidnapping training?

Yes. GJS provides training to organizational managers in how to effectively respond to crisis situations including missing or kidnapped personnel, or personnel under active threat.

What type of advisory services does GJS provide?

GJS advises organizations in real-time as they navigate through crisis situations, both on a paid and pro bono basis.

GJS also deploys experienced field security advisors to help cutting-edge broadcast news organizations cover events like the unrest in Baltimore in 2016.