Beyond the Statistics: Stories of persecuted journalists around the world


Beyond the statistics: Ilta-Sanomat tells the stories of persecuted journalists worldwide

On the occasion of World Press Freedom Day (3 May), UNESCO commends Finnish newspaper Ilta-Sanomat’s commitment to raising awareness of journalist safety, as countless media workers continue to be persecuted, attacked and killed every year for reporting the news.

To promote the newspaper’s efforts, UNESCO has translated a cross-section of news articles from Ilta-Sanomat’s 80-part series on journalist safety into all six official UN languages.

“For 20 years, UNESCO has promoted 3 May as a day to stand up for freedom of expression and the safety of journalists,” said Sylvie Coudray, Chief of Section for UNESCO’s Communication and Information Sector. “We congratulate Ilta-Sanomat for its work to promote the ideals of press freedom not only on World Press Freedom Day, but every day. We encourage all media outlets to do the same.”

Telling Journalists’ Stories

Kaius Niemi is editor-in-chief of Ilta-Sanomat, Finland’s second largest daily newspaper. © Ilta-Sanomat

Ilta-Sanomat was able to compile these journalists’ stories by working with organizations like UNESCO, Reporters Without Borders, The Committee to Protect Journalists and the International Press Institute to gather facts and to learn about each reporter’s personal story.

“It was also quite interesting to see how researching these articles affected our journalists,” says Niemi. “When you write a story that focuses on one person, you make a connection with them even if he or she is jailed or not able to be interviewed personally.  You start to think that this could very easily be me in the article.”

Beyond the Newspaper Articles

Ilta-Sanomat has moved the discussion of journalists safety from the pages of it’s newspaper in to schools, public forums and exhibitions. Based on its news series, Ilta-Sanomat produced a 16-page magazine on journalist safety  that was sent to more than 800 Finnish schools. The newspaper also collaborated with Finnish Päivälehti museum of journalism to create an exhibit on free speech using content from the news series.

The paper also worked with the Helsingin Sanomat Foundation  to organise a nationwide discussion forum with prominent journalists and journalist students alike on how similar projects could be introduced into newsrooms all around Finland.

“People were very interested in discussing the project and pushing it further,” said Niemi, “I’m optimistic that this series might resonate with other Finnish media. We want to build on the forum so that we can continue to discuss issues, share information and hopefully create something concrete in both national and international print, online, TV and radio.”

Related Links:

Ilta-Sanomat articles translated into UN official languages 

Original Ilta-Sanomat Series

BBC Blogs: How journalist safety and freedom of speech made the headlines in Finland

Helsingin Sanomat Foundation

World Press Freedom Day

UNESCO’s Work to Promote the Safety of Journalists


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