Maria McFarland, co-director of the US program of Human Rights Watch edited the report.
She said that journalists interviewed reported finding sources is becoming much more difficult "because you need to meet them in person and it’s much harder to follow up by email and establish a relationship."
McFarland described journalists going to extreme lengths to cover their tracks of communication that are perfectly legitimate, slowing work and making it less likely that important information would reach the public.
McFarland said the Obama administration's response to the report was “remarkably silent.”
Increased surveillance is also prompting more journalists to protect themselves with the latest privacy technology.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), a digital civil liberties organization, has created an online surveillance self-defense how-to guide aimed at improving understanding of safer, more secure electronic communications.
Jillian York, EFF’s director of international freedom of expression, said encryption should be easy and secure for everyone, “not just ‘geeks.’”
“The more of us who use these tools, the harder it makes it for governments to conduct widespread, mass surveillance,” York said by email.
“It is important to remember that technology is not a panacea. It can be used both to get information out and to report … and it can also be used to surveil and track journalists,” said Courtney Radsch, advocacy director for the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).
Press freedom is further threatened when police crack down on journalists trying to cover incidents such as the protests that followed the police killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.
Researchers at the Freedom of the Press Foundation documented at least two dozen journalist arrests in Ferguson. In March 2015 Ryan Devereaux of The Intercept and three other journalists filed a federal lawsuit against the St. Louis County Police Department for false imprisonment and battery.
CPJ released its 2015 10 Most Censored Countries report in April, profiling the countries that use the threat of imprisonment, harassment, deception, surveillance and restricted access to the Internet and technology the most to suppress press freedom.
The report finds broadly defined laws described as “anti-terrorism,” “national security” or “state secrets” are increasingly being used to quash critical reporting and restrict media access.
CPJ’s multi-lingual report names Eritrea, North Korea and Saudi Arabia the three most censored countries of 2015.
“There are still places on Earth that are incredibly restricted, that are subject to such high degrees of censorship that the population has such limited access to information,” said CPJ's Radsche, adding that journalists in countries who “push against red lines” risk imprisonment.
“The people who are most likely to do that are going to be independent voices. Some are freelance, some are independent journalists working online, bloggers, that sort of thing,” Radsche said.
Tina Carr, director of the UK-based Rory Peck Trust, an organization dedicated to helping freelancers, said by email, “It’s the local freelance journalists reporting on conflict, corruption, human rights abuses and daily news events from within their own countries who remain the most vulnerable and often the least visible.”
She added, “Without the work of freelance journalists and their continuing determination to bear witness and uncover stories, our understanding of the world suffers.”
Shining a light on issues with press freedom is the reason UNESCO established World Press Freedom day — marked on May 3 — in 1993
This year, the UNESCO/Guillero Cano World Press Freedom Prize is being awarded to Mazen Darwish, a prominent Syrian journalist, human rights defender and director of the Syrian Centre for Media and Freedom of Expression.
Darwish, who was arrested with two colleagues in 2012 and charged with “promoting terrorist acts,” remains imprisoned today.