"People who exercise their right to freedom of expression through journalism must be allowed to practice their work without restrictions. This is the responsibility of the state, courts, media companies and journalist organizations, but also of NGOs and civil society, in the era of globalization and digitization."
The theme for World Press Freedom Day (WPFD) 2016 was Access to Information and Fundamental Freedoms. This is your right!, with its 3 perspectives: freedom of information as a fundamental freedom and a human right; protecting press freedom from censorship and surveillance overreach; and ensuring safety for journalism online and off line. The latter perspective was the basis for a conference entitled Safety of Journalists. Knowledge is the Key held in Helsinki, Finland, in connection with this WPFD, and subsequently for this publication, which is the result of collaboration between the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Chair at the University of Gothenburg (Nordicom), UNESCO, the International Association for Media and Communication Research (IAMCR), and a range of other partners.
The aim of the conference, which brought together researchers from different parts of the world, was to emphasise and stimulate safety of journalists as a field of research. To support joint efforts to protect journalism, there is a growing need for research-based knowledge. Acknowledging this need, the aim of this publication, which includes the various plenary statements and presented papers from the conference, is to highlight and fuel journalist safety as a field of research, to encourage worldwide participation, and to inspire further dialogues and new research initiatives. The contributions represent diverse perspectives on both empirical and theoretical research and offer many quantitatively and qualitatively informed insights. The papers demonstrate that a new interdisciplinary research field is in fact emerging, and that the fundamental issue remains: Violence and threats against journalists constitute an attack on freedom of expression.
Following some words of introduction from the editors, which provide background and context, the volume is then organised in 4 parts:
- Included in the first part are a few key articles that should be seen as an analytical framework for all the chapters of this book, within the manifold perspectives of its authors. This part begins with Professor Simon Cottle's keynote speech at the conference, Journalist Killings and the Responsibility to Report, where he underlines the importance of understanding how journalism is caught up in both the vortices of history and the globalising present.
- Entitled The Way Forward, the second part is divided in 2 focus areas. First, a number of researchers and experts present their reflections and initiatives to achieve progress in the area of journalist safety. They stress the need for education, research, and comparative statistics - not least collaboration among researchers - in a context of necessary media reforms, strong media ethics systems, media literacy, and democratic development. Secondly, researchers are evaluating the existing tools to measure safety, and new means for measurement are suggested.
- The chapters in the third part of the book are revised versions of papers presented during 3 different sessions of the conference. Even some poster contributions have been revised into short chapters. The common thread running through all these sessions was: When we call for better theorising on the safety of journalists, it is through empirically based knowledge that such improvement is best achieved. The chapters are divided in two main themes: 1. Threats and Violence against Journalists, and Its Effects, and 2. Protection of Journalists and Sources.
- The fourth and final section is devoted to statistics of relevance to building a knowledge base on safety of journalists. Developing analytical frameworks that can guide comparative analysis is important, as without such efforts there is a risk that certain factors will grow out of proportion.
The editors say: "It is our hope that the chapters presented in this book will stimulate further research dialogues and inspire new research initiatives regarding safety of journalists and the danger of impunity. Moreover, if threats and attacks against journalists can be stopped, it will promote justice and equality - a public good for society at large. Knowledge is the key - it is about protecting, promoting and developing freedom of expression and freedom of the media in the digital era."
"The Assault on Journalism: Building Knowledge to Protect Freedom of Expression", by Magda Abu-Fadil, The Huffington Post, May 17 2017; and Nordicom website, both accessed on June 7 2017. Image credit: UNESCO