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‘Academic research necessary to highlight and improve the circumstances of journalists under threat’

Jaap de Jong, Professor of Journalism and New Media, is one of the organisers of the Academic Conference (9 December) as part of the World Press Freedom Conference 2020 -Digital Edition. We managed to speak to him briefly about the upcoming conference.

This is the first ever digital edition of the World Press Freedom Conference and Academic Conference. How are you feeling?

I am excited that Leiden University is the first Dutch organiser of this important academic conference on Safety of Journalists. We live in a polarised world and journalists are still having to work in unsafe environments. Even here in the Netherlands we frequently see the press being harassed or even attacked by bystanders. Not to mention daily threats posted to journalists on social media.  In many countries it is much worse – and academic research is necessary to form a foundation for highlighting and improving these circumstances.

Moderators Academic Conference (Bruce Mutsvairo & Romy Heymans)

In what way was it an extra challenge to organise the Academic Conference online?

When corona kicked in we were forced to completely change the format. The rigorously selected researchers sent in full papers and we asked them to deliver a short video which will be the intro to the sessions. Our moderators Bruce Mutsvairo (a former Leiden PhD student and now professor of Journalism at Auburn University, USA) and Romy Heymans (MA student Journalism at Leiden University) will lead us through the four hours of presentations and discussions.

The programme of the Academic Conference has now been finalised. What can we expect?

We have a great programme! I look forward to the keynote speaker Glenda Daniels (University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa) who will highlight challenges especially for women journalists in Africa but will focus on the opportunities that these times present in her speech Journalism’s Power, Responsibility & Public Service. And one of the UNESCO chairs Jackie Harrison (University of Sheffield) will give us her views on how to give the strongest impact to all our academic work. All our master students Journalism will join the conference and chat with researchers: a real opportunity for all!

The theme of the conference 'Safety of Journalism' is now more urgent than ever. What will be its legacy?

All the papers are published in the conference library, for everyone to read. The three professors with a special UNESCO chair on the subject of Safety of Journalism will certainly try to take the academic discussions about the new research to a next level and spread the results for more impact. There are concrete ideas to establish a centre of ICORN: The International Cities of Refuge Network in Leiden. ICORN is an independent organisation of cities and regions offering shelter to journalists, writers and artists at risk, advancing freedom of expression, defending democratic values and promoting international solidarity. And this conference may well be the start of a new collaboration between the university, the city of Leiden, some Dutch national media, and our partners in organising the Academic Conference 2020

Can people still register for the conference?

Everyone who wants to know more about how to keep journalists safe and to keep democracy alive is free to join the conference. You only need to register beforehand. The overall WPFC also has a great lineup featuring speakers like Marietje Schaake (a former member of the European Parliament, and President of the CyberPeace Institute), Hatice Cengiz (a Turkish activist, scholar and writer and former fiancee of Jamal Khashoggi, the Saudi journalist who was murdered at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul), Joe Maalouf, Carole Cadwalladr and many, many others. 

Register now for the Academic Conference as part of the World Press Freedom Conference 2020 (9-10 December)!

WPFC2020 -digital edition website
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