Creating networks to
protect journalists


About Hancel

Hancel is an open source project started in 2012 by the Mexican organisation Factual.

The app was built with the aim of connecting journalists to each other and to organisations dedicated to defending freedom of speech. Factual is no longer working on this project and has not been actively involved in its development since March 2014.

If you are a journalist or an organisation looking for information on panic buttons then there is no need to start from scratch. You are welcome to use our code which can be found on our Github.

Please be aware that this code needs a security audit.

There are several organisations working on panic button related apps, including Panic Button, Circle of Six, and Reporta app.

Not all of these projects are open source and our mentioning of them is not an endorsement.

Factual is not responsible for any amendments made to the Hancel code or for any applications built using the original code, including applications that may use the same name.

Factual would like to thank all the developers who volunteered time on this project as well as the organisations that supported us.

Please note that the information in the FAQ below is out of date.

knigth foundation

Hancel is a Factual project funded by the Knight Foundation.

Links journalists with organisations dedicated to protecting freedom of expression.

Hancel can be programmed to monitor journalists working in high-risk areas and also sends an automated alert when a journalist fails to report in.

Sends an alert to a list of preselected contacts with the exact GPS location

Creates a secure network of contacts and organisations that can react instantly in case of an alert.

Hancel gives journalists greater control over their own security.

About us

Hancel was thought up by two journalists looking for a way to improve safety for Latin American journalists in the field. The project was developed over a period of 18 months with suggestions and advice from colleagues and experts. Hancel received funding from the Knight Foundation Prototype Fund in March.

Hancel is a project by Factual, an organisation that promotes social change in Latin America through the use of technology.


  • What is Hancel?
    Hancel is a cell phone application for Android that allows journalists both to report aggressions as they happen and to program automatic alerts in case of an incident. Journalists can select which personal contacts and free speech organisations will receive their alerts and in doing so create a network that allows for a more immediate and coordinated response.
  • Why is Hancel necessary?
    Latin America is one of the most dangerous regions for journalists. According to the report, Attacks on the Press 2012, by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), 14 journalists were killed between December 2006 to 2012 because of their profession.
  • How much does Hancel cost?
    Hancel is free.
  • In which countries is Hancel currently operating?
    We currently work with free speech organisations in Mexico and Colombia. We plan to take the project to other countries in Latin America in the near future.
  • Why is it called Hancel?
    Hancel gets its name from the German fairy tale, Hansel and Gretel, in which the children leave a trail of breadcrumbs to find their way back home. The spelling has been changed to Hancel with a C for cell phone.
  • Can I install Hancel on my phone?
    Hancel works on android 2.2 (Gingerbread) and will run on all future versions.
  • Can I use Hancel if I am not a journalist?
    Hancel is designed to link journalists to organisations dedicated to defending freedom of speech. The project is currently being implemented in stages with a restricted number of journalists. We are considering the possibility of working with others, such as human rights activists, in the future.
  • Will I have time to send an alert in an emergency?
    Hancel is designed so that a journalist can send an alert without having to unlock their phone. The app can also be programmed to send an automatic alert in case a journalist fails to report in.
  • What happens if I do not have Internet?
    Hancel is designed to work with or without Internet, phone signal or GPS tracking. If your phone does not have access to any of the above, the alert will be saved and sent once the phone has access to the Internet.
  • Does Hancel automatically alert the authorities?
    Hancel will not share any information with the authorities. A journalist can include contact details of authorities in their list of contacts if they so wish.