According to UNESCO, at least 800 journalists and media producers have been killed in the last 10 years. This threat to the physical safety and security of journalists, their families and their media is the most direct threat to media freedom. Journalists need to be recognised and protected as vital to one of our most fundamental form of human rights, free speech. Without a free press we cannot hold the powerful accountable for human rights abuses. A free media is necessary for all free people. The killing of journalists is one of the the most fundamental threats to freedom. It is the most essential method of censorship.
The new media platforms of the modern age means that there are now thousands of citizen journalists. These new journalists must be recognised and protected with the same rights as those who received traditional training.
The safety of journalists is becoming a global priority. The UN has released a plan of action encouraging collaborations to share skills and build systems of safety together. CFOM are supporting this plan by working together with UNESCO and other like-minded organisations to coordinate the 3-4th May Helsinki events for World Press Freedom Day.
Our International Director, William Horsley, will be representing us at the main international conference marking World Press Freedom Day in Helsinki, hosted by UNESCO and the government of Finland, being held at the same time.
The research conference is organised by UNESCO and the UNESCO Chair at University of Gothenburg in collaboration with IAMCR, University of Sheffield, University of Helsinki and University of Tampere.
At the research conference there will 18 papers, including one by our own Omar Al-Ghazzi, and 14 posters presented at the conference, all on the topic of Journalistic safety. There will also be keynote speeches and two panel discussions on the conference theme. The aim is to share our research and advice between our organisations so that we might better work together.
Our Chair, Jackie Harrison will be chairing one of the paper sessions. Jackie will also be involved in the second and closing panel, Conclusion and Way Forward, taking place on the 4th. Our Chair has been asked to deliver the closing keynote speech. She intends to use this space to explain the possibilities for future cooperation and collaboration and to reflect on the existing research and the conference as a whole.
Jackie’s thoughts on the event:
” This provides an excellent forum to meet with and hear from scholars who are researching the constraints on media freedom in all their complexity and I hope it provides us with new opportunities for future collaborations.”
Omar Al-Ghazzi, one of our researcher team, will be presenting his paper entitled Amateur Journalism in Syria and the Silent Slaughter of Raqqa. Omar’s paper focuses on the increasing importance of citizen journalists and their vital role in reporting global atrocities. As modern technology allows for anyone to record what they see, it is becoming increasingly vital that we find ways to protect these vulnerable reporters.
Omar’s thoughts on the event:
“I am looking forward to the conference and to presenting my research about new forms of media work in the Middle East and their relation to journalists’ safety. I am particularly excited that the conference will bring together researchers, policy makers and journalists.”
Our part in the organisation of the even has been led by Sara Torsner. Sarah has been working in partnership with UNESCO thanks to the ESRC Collaborative Studentship fund. She is involved in the coordination team for the event whilst undertaking fieldwork in Paris as an intern at UNESCO. She will be a part of both the UNESCO and Sheffield team and will attend and run the conference.
Sara’s thoughts on the event:
“Despite the serious threats facing journalists around the world, it is interesting to see that the issue of the safety of journalists is increasingly gaining attention. Not least following the work to implement the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity. Another more recent development is the acknowledgement of the press freedom dimension of sustainable development. The potential inclusion of threats against journalists as an indicator for assessing progress on the Sustainable Development Goal concerning access to information is one of the aspects I look forward to hearing more about during the WPFD conference. I’m also very interested to learn more about what academic research is being done on the issue of the safety of journalists and I hope to get some input for my own research on how to measure various kinds of threats to journalists.”