» Safety of journalists brought closer to academic community thanks to Helsingin Sanomat Foundation
22.09.2016 - Communication & Information Sector

Safety of journalists brought closer to academic community thanks to Helsingin Sanomat Foundation

Thanks to the support of the Helsingin Sanomat Foundation, UNESCO has advanced its work on the safety of journalists and brought the issue of journalists’ safety and impunity closer to the academic community.

Reeta Pöyhtäri, Research Fellow funded by the Helsingin Sanomat Foundation in the Division of Freedom of Expression and Media Development at UNESCO headquarters, coordinated UNESCO’s Journalists’ Safety Indicators (JSI), providing her expertise and oversight to their application in three different countries and facilitating academic cooperation on the safety of journalists.

Speaking about the relevance of the Helsingin Sanomat Foundation research fellowship to UNESCO, Pöyhtäri explains: “The funding for the fellowship has been a great support for UNESCO's work on safety of journalists. Concretely it meant that an expert was working on the topic of safety of journalists for two years. This has enabled strengthening the JSI initiative as a part of UNESCO's regular programme. It has also led to the creation of a new line of programmatic work, namely establishing the academic cooperation on safety of journalists’ research.”

UNESCO’s Journalists' Safety Indicators were developed within the context of the UN Plan of Action on Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity. JSI serve to identify the actions that are taken by the various relevant stakeholders in promoting journalists’ safety and fighting impunity at the national level. “The support of the Foundation has been invaluable for UNESCO to have the capacity for fully establishing the Journalists’ Safety Indicators,” commented Guy Berger, UNESCO’s Director of the Division of Freedom of Expression and Media Development.

The Helsingin Sanomat Foundation Research Fellow also helped to bring closer UNESCO’s work on safety of journalists to the academic community by consolidating UNESCO’s research agenda on the safety of journalists.

“The safety of journalists is a complex matter. It has typically been researched and analyzed as a part of some larger phenomenon or specific circumstances. This is of course important, but it is equally important to have the focus on safety itself,” Pöyhtäri said. “The research agenda worked as a source of ideas and inspiration, as it gives researchers ideas on the type of relevant and necessary knowledge” she added.

The issue of safety of journalists was also presented in several international communication conferences. “I must say that academia has been very welcoming and interested in the topic and keen on cooperation. The academic community has also shown their own initiative and has already started creating new forms of cooperation,” Pöyhtäri said.

Recalling some of the most relevant achievements, Pöyhtäri points out the International Journalism Safety Research Network, which was launched by the Centre for Freedom of the Media (CFOM) at the University of Sheffield with support of UNESCO, as well as UNESCO’s first Safety of Journalists Research Conference, which was held during the 2016 World Press Freedom Day celebration in Helsinki, thanks to the support of the UNESCO Chair at the University of Gothenburg.

Pöyhtäri was the first Helsingin Sanomat research fellow at UNESCO. As the Foundation promotes and supports high-level research on freedom of expression, cooperation with UNESCO’s work on safety of journalists contributed to the foundation’s mission. “The Helsingin Sanomat Foundation highly values the work UNESCO is doing on safety of journalists and the issue of impunity,” said Ulla Koski, President of the Helsingin Sanomat Foundation. “We are very pleased that during the past two years the foundation has been able to contribute to this remarkable work.”

Pöyhtäri says she will continue her engagement to raise public knowledge about journalists’ safety: “I will in the near future collaborate on the safety of journalists’ research publication that is based on the 2016 World Press Freedom Day conference. I will give lectures on the topic to future journalists, as well as participate in related academic events. Safety of journalists has now become a part of my research activities, and therefore it is very natural that I will be working to raise public knowledge on the issue as well.”

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