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Free VPN for digital rights defenders: A partnership between TunnelBear and EngageMedia

This post is also available in: Myanmar

Screenshot from the TunnelBear website


Update as of March 23, 2021: Individuals who live in countries where TunnelBear is not available on the Google Play Store will now be able to download our latest APK through the verified TunnelBear Telegram channel.

Users who are already on side-loaded versions of TunnelBear should update their app via Telegram ASAP. They will then start to receive an in-app notification if they are on an outdated version of the service that directs them to the channel.

If you have been distributing the TunnelBear APK manually to users in restricted environments, please refrain from doing this, and direct members of your network to the Telegram channel.


As part of our support to communities fighting for digital rights in the region, EngageMedia has partnered with public virtual private network (VPN) service TunnelBear to distribute, as needed, free VPN vouchers to other human rights organisations, digital rights defenders, journalists, and activists. The partnership is under the service’s NGO Support Network, which provides “free secure browsing for digital rights defenders”.

Each voucher can be redeemed for a one-year subscription to a TunnelBear account that allows for unlimited data usage. Your account can also be connected to up to five devices, which can be a combination of computers, mobile devices, and browser extensions.

If you are part of any of the listed groups, here’s how you can avail of the free voucher.

How do I get the free one-year subscription?

To get the free one-year TunnelBear VPN subscription, please:

  1. Email [email protected] to ask for your voucher code. In the email, please include a brief summary of what you do and how this VPN voucher can help you in your line of work. Once we receive your application, your unique codes will be sent within two working days.
  2. Create your TunnelBear account. You will require an email address to create your account. Consider using an anonymous email account such as ProtonMail or Tutanota if you’d like more privacy. For added security, you can use a strong password and a password manager such as KeePassXC.
  3. Activate your TunnelBear VPN voucher.
  4. Download the TunnelBear app to run the VPN on your devices. TunnelBear apps are available for PC, Mac, iPhone and Android.
    1. To install TunnelBear on a macOS or Windows computer, head to the website to download the app. Then, follow the prompts to get your new Bear installed.
    2. On iOS or Android devices, you can download and install TunnelBear from the respective app stores on your device. For iOS, you can download it here. For Android, grab the app here.
    3. If the app is not available on the Google Play Store in your country, download the APK from the verified TunnelBear Telegram channel. This is the best place to download the app.
    4. If you have difficulty downloading the app, you may reach out to the tech support emails listed below.

How do I use TunnelBear?

  1. Open TunnelBear from your desktop or mobile phone.
  2. Tap the button “Turn on” to connect to the VPN.
  3. Once your VPN has been set up, you should also see either Fastest, or a specific country name.
  4. When you are done using your VPN, do not forget to “Turn off” the application.

How do I download and install the TunnelBear APK?

Read the TunnelBear Distribution FAQ on APKs (available only in English) for more information. In the FAQ, TunnelBear walks users through potential problems with APK installation, and how to fix them.

Is EngageMedia endorsing TunnelBear?

While EngageMedia has a partnership with TunnelBear and has good reasons to consider TunnelBear as a reasonably secure VPN, the availability of these free vouchers does not mean that we at EngageMedia can fully vouch for TunnelBear. We encourage everyone to do their research and due diligence, as well as to read TunnelBear’s Terms of Service.

Whom do I contact for more information and tech support?

Contact [email protected] if you have questions or technical support requests. TunnelBear will see to your requests, and forward any concerns about blockages or access restrictions to their dedicated anti-censorship team. You can also communicate your experience (good and bad) with TunnelBear to [email protected] to add to our own research.

How long will this free service be available?

TunnelBear may deactivate the codes or terminate the service at any time. If that occurs, TunnelBear will make reasonable efforts to communicate any cancellation of the program in advance.