The founding principle of the Centre for Freedom of the Media (CFOM) is to illuminate where news media freedom is undermined or abused and to examine news media standards of independence and truthfulness. At the centre of CFOM’s thinking is the recognition that media freedom is an increasingly rare and scarce resource and that the diverse threats to its undertaking range from the subtle and often reasonable sounding constraints on practice to brutality and murder. CFOM is concerned with researching all aspects of media freedom. These aspects range from philosophical and juridical concerns for the extent of freedom of expression to perception studies and detailed empirical studies of the diverse settings in which free journalism is undertaken, desired or restricted. Below is a list of the ways in which CFOM researches media freedom.
Civil societies and the news
One of the critical indices of a mature democracy is the structural and institutional differentiation between the state and civil society. Such differentiation manifests itself in terms of the degree of freedom the two great institutions of a free civil society, the factual media and the law in the form of independent media and legal systems, actually have. However, modernity has seen myriad attempts at managing this independence. Increasingly in contemporary democracies political forces and market circumstances in particular have contested the requirement for independence and civil power for the factual media. This research theme is concerned with the civil power of the factual media specifically as it is manifest in the news. It explores the extent to which a free and civil factual news media flourishes in diverse democratic settings and remains free and unfettered to address civil societies’ invariant civil concerns, namely matters of legitimacy, identity, risk and civil boundaries.
Harrison, J. (2010) ‘European Social Purpose and Public Service Communication’ in Bee, C. and Bozzini, E. (eds.) Mapping the European Public Sphere: institutions, media and civil society, Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing pp99-116. Read Mapping the European Public Sphere here. Read the presentation on European Social Purpose and Public Service Communication here
Harrison, J. (2011) ‘The Development of a European Civil Society through EU Public Service Communication’ in Papathanassopoulos, S. and Negrine, R. (eds.) Towards a Theory of Communication Policy, London: Palgrave Macmillan.
Harrison, J. ‘Digital Britain: Civil Aims and the BBC’ Communications Law (2010) 14 (6) pp 112-118.
Harrison, J. ‘Ofcom, Local TV and Public Purpose’ Communications Law (2008) 13 (1) pp 3-8.
Freedom of expression
In all declarations of human rights, no matter how thin, there is to be found an endorsement of freedom of expression. Equally, there is in most political constitutions an endorsement of freedom of expression even to the extent that the most repressive of societies feels the need to invent for itself a commitment to freedom of expression. And yet, it remains the case that there are powerful and compelling arguments that freedom of expression should be restricted in some form or other. The debates between advocates of the unrestricted application of the 1st amendment and the censorship of hate speech and incitements to violence form the parameters of this research theme. Comparative regulatory environments with regard to the promotion, protection and limitation of freedom of expression are researched and contrasted. The gaps between constitutional commitments and actuality are explored and the questions of what forms of expression should be and should not be tolerated are examined.
Amos, M., Harrison, J. and Woods, L (eds) (2012) Freedom of expression and the media: the application of legal standards to journalistic practice Nijhoff Law Specials Vol. 79 Leiden. Boston: Martinus Nijhoff pp256. Read Freedom of expression and the media here
The European Union
Art. 2 Treaty on European Union (TEU) outlines that the values that the EU is built upon. Included in these values is democracy. Correspondingly, the political discourse of the EU institutions subsumes freedom of expression and media pluralism under the commitment to democracy and therefore both are protected by art. 2 TEU. Supporting this article is art. 7 TEU. It empowers the European institutions to intervene in the case of a serious risk that the values enshrined in art. 2 are being breached. In other words, the EU has the competence and legal mandate to intervene if it judges freedom of expression and media pluralism to be under serious threat or effectively undermined in any of its member states. A look at the latest Press Freedom Index 2015 shows that media freedom is seriously under threat in various EU member states: Bulgaria ranks 106th, Greece 91st, Italy 73rd (down from 49th in 2014) to name only a few examples. Challenges to media freedom across the EU range from legal constraints to political pressure and from market considerations to pre EU political and cultural legacies. While journalists in Croatia are exposed to violence, are dragged in front of the courts for defamation in Italy and have their public service broadcaster shut down in Greece, the European Union stands by in silence. In other words, despite there being serious risks and breaches across the member states of the EU, the EU has thus far chosen to ignore its legal possibility of intervention, although whether this remains the case even in the light of recent restrictions to media freedom in Poland remains to be seen. CFOM researchers in this area examine the European Union institutions’ inactivity to obvious breaches of art. 2 TEU, analyse in a comparative manner the state of media freedom in EU member states as well as its threats and challenges.
Pukallus, S. and Harrison, J. (2016) ‘If media freedom is a fundamental value in the EU why doesn’t the EU do anything to ensure its application: The non-use of Art.7 TEU’, in (ed.) Koltay, A. Comparative Perspectives on the Fundamentals of Freedom of Expression, Netherlands: Wolters Kluwer. Read more about this article here
Pukallus, S. (2015) If the EU is serious about freedom of expression it should take aim at Spain’s controversial ‘gag law’, contribution to the EUROPP Blog, London School of Economics and Political Science, June. Read the article here
Pukallus, S. ‘The protection of journalists in Croatia: the EU talks a lot but acts too little’, (November 2013). Read the Protection of Journalists in Croatia here
Harrison, J. The sacking of anti-austerity journalists is part of a worrying trend for press freedom in Spain. Read The sacking of anti-austerity journalists in Spain here
Katsirea, I. ‘Public Service Broadcasting in Greece: Back to the Future or Point of no Return?’ (together with P. Iosifidis) (2015) 10 (1) Global Media Journal 1-12. Read Public Service Broadcasting in Grece here
Katsirea, I. ‘Public Service Broadcasting in Greece in the Era of Austerity’ (together with P. Iosifidis), Centre for Media Freedom and Pluralism Working Paper Series, European University Institute, RSCAS 2014/42, 1-17.
Journalism Safety and Impunity
Impunity is defined as the official protection of those who intimidate or who perpetrate violence against journalists. It is increasingly being used by states across the globe to chill, constrain and prevent the practice of free investigative journalism. Journalists are increasingly being silenced and/or subject by officialdom to state-sponsored oppression. Indeed the killing of journalists has over the last decade remained at consistently high levels. Journalism safety and the use of impunity are researched and analysed in a comparative settings across the globe, via empirical studies which measures media workers’ attitudes to the UN Action Plan on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity as well as their specific environment, the nature of attacks on journalism in different states as well as the tracking of the use social media. Research is also undertaken into the design and structure of Journalism Safety Trends (JSTs) data sets as indicators of the safety and risk to the practice of free journalism in hostile environments inimical to free journalism at national and regional levels and as indicators of the broader status of media freedom, democracy and development in nations.
Pukallus, S. and Harrison, J. ‘Journalists Die: Who Cares?’, British Journalism Review, (2015) Vol. 26 no. 1, 63-68. Read Journalists Die: Who Cares here
Harrison, J. and Pukallus (2015-16) ‘Strengthening Freedom of the Media: Evaluating the values, practices and attitudes of news editors with regard to journalism safety and the impunity in six countries’, International Programme for the Development of Communication, UNESCO.
Torsner, S, Harrison, J and Taylor, K. (2015-18) ‘The Design and Structure of Journalism Safety Trends Data Sets’, ESRC Collaborative Studentship with UNESCO.
Pukallus, S, Harrison, J (2014) “CFOM Preliminary Research on the Non-Reporting of and the Public’s Interest In Crimes Against Journalists and the Issue of Impunity (Summary)”, Centre for Freedom Of the Media (CFOM), University of Sheffield, UK Read the research summary here
Horsley, W. and Harrison, J. ‘Censorship by Bullet’, British Journalism Review, (2013) Vol. 24 no. 1, 39-46. Read Censorship By Bullet here
Post-Communist media, journalism and the impact of democratisation
In post-communist countries that have undergone a challenging process of democratisation in the last quarter of the century journalism has been subject to radical and often competing changes to such an extent that professional practices and identities are constantly disputed. Research is undertaken into the complex process of post-communist transition and sheds light on the experiences and worldviews of journalists who are living through times of extreme political, social and economic change. Research also involves studying how violence, threats, political, economic pressure and corruption are influencing journalism practice and media freedom. Also examined is the conflict between the former repressive apparatus of communist regimes such as the secret police and its allegedly still functioning networks in the new democracies. For example, the role and influence of former ‘journalist-spies’ who worked for the secret police during communism and their alleged negative impact on the process democratisation. This is a phenomenon known in all former Soviet Bloc countries but is particularly pronounced in countries that had very close ties to the former Soviet Union, such as Bulgaria and Romania.
Trifonova Price, L. 2015a. “Secrets, Lies and Journalist-Spies – the contemporary moral dilemma for Bulgarian media professionals”. International Journal of Press/Politics. SAGE Vol. 20 (2) 185-203. Read Secrets, lies and Journalist-Spies here
Trifonova Price, Lada. 2015b. “Journalists’ Perceptions of Nomenklatura Networks and Media Ownership in Post-Communist Bulgaria” Medijske Studije/Media Studies. Vol. 6 (11) 19-34 Read Journalists Perceptions… here
Trifonova Price, L. 2014. “Media Freedom Under Threat in Bulgaria”, British Journalism Review, Vol. 23 (3) 50-54.
Guardian Article, Why Bulgaria is the Eu’s lowest ranking country on press freedom index, (September 2014). Read Why Bulgaria is EU’s lowest ranking country here
Psychological ‘unfreedoms’ of reporting international politics
This research examines how self-concepts and self-stories are invisibly but centrally present in media portrayals of international ‘others’, especially in crisis situations. This presence can create psychological ‘unfreedoms’ in the way crises are reported, as journalists are not free from the influences of identity, collective memory, and belonging. More broadly, this research offers an interdisciplinary integration of international relations, political psychology, psychoanalysis, media studies, and sociology.
Public opinion about journalists and media freedom
This research focuses on identity and perception; uncertainty and ontological (in)security; early reportage and the formation of political memories; emotion and political imagining; and metaphor and stereotype.
Media Models in Post Conflict Reconstruction
Post-conflict state reconstruction is a process of state transformation in order to achieve sustainable peace. Peace in this regard is more than the absence of war and it includes security, justice and reconciliation, democracy and participation, civil society structures, economic wellbeing, the rule of law and human rights protection. Media have the power to support or derail these aims. More specifically, the media can foment conflict but they can also create a civil sphere and become an agency where the aims of reconstruction can be supported in particular those of democracy, participation and the rule of law through accountability. CFOM researches and identifies the media values that post conflict states need to adopt and practice in order to achieve sustainable peace.
Tsagourias, N. ‘Consent, Neutrality/Impartiality and the use of Force in Peacekeeping: Their Constitutional Role’ in Journal of Conflict and Security Law (2006) pp. 465-484.
International law and the protection of journalists
Different branches of International law protect journalists and their professional activities. For example, international human rights law protects journalists from unlawful killings, arbitrary detention and also protects their professional activities. International humanitarian law protects journalists from the consequences of war but can justify attacks on journalists if they directly participate in hostilities. International criminal law criminalises attacks on journalists amounting to crimes against humanity or war crimes. CFOM researches the international law protections offered to journalists in particular in situations of armed conflict and the mechanisms that exist to prevent impunity.
Tsagourias N. Collective Security: Law, Theory and Practice, (with Professor Nigel White), Cambridge University Press, 2013.
Tsagourias N. Jurisprudence of International Law: The Humanitarian Dimension, Melland Schill Studies in International Law, Manchester, Manchester University Press, 2000.
Tsagourias N. Research Handbook on International Law and Cyberspace, (with Dr Buchan), Elgar, 2015. Read the Research handbook here
Tsagourias N. ‘Self-defence, protection of humanitarian values, and the doctrine of impartiality and neutrality in enforcement mandates’ in Marc Weller (ed) The Oxford Handbook of the Use of Force in International Law (OUP, 2015) pp.398-416. Read the chapter here
Tsagourias N. ‘The Tallinn Manual on the International Law Applicable to Cyber Warfare: A Commentary on Chapter II—The Use of Force’ 15 Yearbook of International Humanitarian Law (2014), pp. 19-43.
Tsagourias N. ‘Consent, Neutrality/Impartiality and the use of Force in Peacekeeping: Their Constitutional Role’ in Journal of Conflict and Security Law (2006) pp. 465-484.
Press regulation in an era of convergence
Media convergence enables citizens to use the same devices so as to access a diverge range of content that was formerly tied to specific platforms. It also presents a policy challenge as regulators struggle to accommodate new technological and market realities within existing governance structures. An aspect of convergence that has so far received scant attention is that between broadcasting and the press. Newspapers are not just ‘news’ printed on ‘paper’, but are also understood as news content available on websites carrying videos that are reminiscent of television. The technological convergence between press and broadcasting throws into sharp relief the historically disparate regulation of the two sectors and raises the question whether technological convergence should lead to regulatory convergence. This study examines whether convergence of media content regulation in the form of broadcasting deregulation or, conversely, of a tightening of press standards is desirable, considering the rationales and sustainability of key regulatory requirements in a number of jurisdictions.
Katsirea, I. ‘Electronic Press: “Press-like” or “television-like”?’ (2015) 23 (2) International Journal of Law and Information Technology 134-156. Read Electronic Press here
Product placement in the media
A cornerstone of European media regulation has been the separation between commercial and editorial content. The principle of separation aims to safeguard the editorial integrity of programmes and to protect viewers from deception. However, the separation principle has been abandoned in all but name as a result of the liberalisation of product placement in the Audiovisual Media Services Directive. This research examines ways in which to balance the pressures for commercial advantage with standards of creative and editorial integrity against the backdrop of the over-complex and ill-considered AVMSD framework.
Katsirea, I. ‘Commercial influences on programme content: The German and UK approaches to transposing the EU rules on product placement’ (together with T. Gibbons) (2012) 4 (2) Journal of Media Law, 159-188. Read Commercial influencees on programme content here
Public service broadcasting in the online domain
Public service broadcasting (PSB) finds itself currently in the eye of the storm. It has been for some time now the target of sustained criticism on the grounds that it is a relic from the age of spectrum scarcity, a paternalistic curb on viewer sovereignty and consumer choice, an unjustified intervention in an increasingly competitive marketplace. The amount of funding it receives, its governance, and also, more and more, the extent of its remit are under close scrutiny. The EU’s position towards PSB’s online presence is ambivalent. To a certain extent the Commission appreciates the importance of a broad public service remit for the social, democratic, and cultural life of the Union. At the same time, it fears that PSBs’ online presence may obstruct the development of new business models by commercial operators. The Commission’s market-oriented approach means that it is inclined to prioritize the more tangible competition concerns over the more abstract civic and cultural considerations. The 2009 Broadcasting Communication tightened the screw on PSB further by introducing the ex-ante assessment of significant new media services. This research argues that there are good reasons to endow public service media with a comprehensive online remit, and examines the scope to do so within the current EU and national regulatory frameworks.
Katsirea, I. ‘Who is Afraid of Public Service Broadcasting? The Digital Future of an Age-Old Institution under Threat’ (2012) 31 Yearbook of European Law, 416-451
Katsirea, I. ‘The three-step test. Three steps forwards or backwards for public service broadcasting in Germany?’ in K. Donders and H. Moe (eds), Exporting the Public Value Test: Views from Academia and Practioners (Göteborg, Nordicom, 2011), 59-67. Read the three-Step Test here
Harrison, J. (2011) ‘ ‘ in Papathanassopoulos, S. and Negrine, R. (eds.) Towards a Theory of Communication Policy, London: Palgrave Macmillan.
Harrison, J. and Woods, L. (2007) European Broadcasting Law and Policy Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Read European broadcasting Law and Policy here
Harrison, J. and Wessels, B. ‘A New Public Service Communication Environment? Public Service Broadcasting Values in the Reconfiguring Media’ New Media and Society, (2005) 7(6): 861-880.