launched in 2013 by Lord Patten, the Chancellor of the University of Oxford. OMN examines the media questions shaping our times, looks behind the headlines and challenges conventional thinking. The Network provides a forum for alumni and others to meet, debate and exchange ideas with leading experts in their fields and media professionals. OMN works in partnership with other organisations to build links and expand reach.
Speakers have included Christiane Amanpour CBE, CNN’s Chief International Correspondent, Max Hill QC Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation and Mathew D’Ancona columnist.
Recommendations for FCO Global Conference on Media Freedom in July 2019 from OMN/Channel 4 Television event ‘Journalists in the Line of Fire’ chaired by Lindsey Hilsum. by Deborah Pout
The event, which focused on the unprecedented scale of attacks on journalists and the threat to freedom of speech globally (with the resultant undermining of democracy), made clear that safeguarding media freedom involves multiple players but especially governments and the media themselves, hence the range of recommendations for action below.
ACTION BY MEDIA ORGANISATIONS AND JOURNALISTS
SOLIDARITY: There should be greater solidarity at both national and international levels between media organisations and journalists who, as Channel 4 Head of News & Current Affairs Dorothy Byrne remarked in opening the event, ‘need to get together to stand up for our profession’.
PUBLICITY: Editors and media owners need to ensure that when a journalist is targeted a concerted attempt makes sure their stories are published nationally and internationally as well as highlighting the journalist’s individual personal story. Cameroonian reporter Mimi Mefo told the meeting that local media solidarity along with critical coverage of the Cameroon Government on the international stage had proven effective over individual journalists’ case including in securing her release from prison. The ‘Forbidden Stories’ project of the international journalist grouping, Freedom Voices Network, was favourably mentioned in this regard for publishing the work of journalists under threat of attack.
PUBLIC AWARENESS: It is imperative to raise public awareness about the seriousness of attacks on journalists and media freedom. Reuters Institute Director Rasmus Nielsen argued that too many people were not convinced about the role of the media, referring to the ‘tepid indifference’ to the issue displayed in many liberal countries along with relatively low levels of public trust in the media.
ACTION BY GOVERNMENTS AND POLITICIANS
A CULTURE OF SAFETY: Governments must foster a culture to improve public discourse surrounding the media. They should act to deter personal verbal and physical attacks on journalists and the media which reinforce public mistrust and set an example to the wider public that attacks on journalists are acceptable. This is fundamentally damaging to the democratic process promoting a wider public scepticism in public institutions.
SUPPORT FOR INDEPENDENT JOURNALISM: The demise of local papers and news has contributed to an overall decline in the public being properly informed about the communities in which they live. This is having a negative impact on the democratic process. The meeting heard from the Ambassador of the Republic of Latvia, Baiba Braze, on the Latvian model of ring-fenced funds to provide resources for local, investigative and ‘citizen’ journalists. As funds were administered at arms-length from government and as such not subject to political influence, this model of indirect support for good journalism deserves to be studied and replicated.
SUPPORT FOR JOURNALISTS IN TROUBLE: There is much scope for governments to give assistance to journalists under threat of attack both within their own countries and through offers of asylum to refugee journalists in cases of physical danger. The Latvia case study showed that governments can do much by issuing visas and facilitating the movement of journalists under attack. Sympathetic neutral governments can negotiate for the release of imprisoned individual journalists and in case when journalists were caught up in wider geo-political events. Lindsey Hilsum and others highlighted that the UK Home Office has a poor record in working with media outlets on providing visas and this was identified as an area the UK government could remedy relatively easily.
ENDING A CULTURE OF IMPUNITY: Governments have to muster the political will to end the culture of impunity for governments and powerful individuals who get away with the murder of journalists. This entails governments such as the UK government to have some uncomfortable conversations with allied nations who have been identified for their abysmal record on media freedom and attacks on journalists. It also requires the boosting of law enforcement mechanisms.
HOLDING SOCIAL MEDIA PLATFORMS TO ACCOUNT: This was seen as a crucial though inherently problematic area where social media are observed as ‘poisoning the well’ of discourse in democratic societies at the same time as offering an indispensable channel for journalists to bear witness in unfree societies. There was consensus that it was urgent to require full transparency and proper accountability form these platforms.
MEDIA LITERACY: Governments need to build literacy by policies which educate the public about ‘fake news’, on how to identify disinformation. Media literacy courses need to be strengthened in schools on how to analyse information on the internet, on possible mechanisms to validate information on the internet and on the importance of the media in the democratic process.
Forthcoming event at Channel 4 Television HQ, 124 Horseferry Road, London, Thursday 27th June 2019 Drinks 6pm & Discussion 6.45/8.30pm
RSVP Deborah Pout to email Oxfordmedianetwork@gmail.com. NB. You will receive email confirmation of your place.
Journalists in the Line of Fire
What can be done under an unravelling world order to shore up international safety protocols?
Deborah Pout, Oxford Media Network (Welcome)
Dorothy Byrne, Head of News & Current Affairs Channel 4 (Opening Remarks)
Lindsy Hilsum, International Editor, Channel 4 News (Chair)
Rasmus Nielsen, Professor of Communication & Director of the Reuters Institute
Mimi Mefo, Award Winning Journalist at Equinoxe TV Cameroon & Pen Sponsored Journalist
Her Excellency Baiba Braize, Ambassador of the Republic of Latvia