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Journalism community addresses Internet Universality Indicators at the International Journalism Festival

“This project seeks to help secure the future of the Internet. UNESCO wants to put journalism at the center of this process,” said Guy Berger, Director for Freedom of Expression and Media Development at UNESCO, during a consultative session on the Internet Universality Indicators held at the International Journalism Festival 2018 in Perugia, Italy.

UNESCO hold a consultative event at the International Journalism Festival in Perugia, Italy on 14 April 2018. Highly-engaged panelists addressed the Internet Universality Indicators and supported an Internet based on human Rights, that is Open, Accessible to all and nurtured by Multistakeholder participation.

“The future of journalism is inextricably bound up with the wider Internet ecosystem,” said Julie Posetti, Australian journalist and senior research fellow at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, in opening remarks. The session “Journalism and the future of the Internet: help the UN draft a new international standard for a free and open worldwide web” aimed to present the draft Internet Indicators to the journalism community. Participants were asked to assess indicators linked with press freedom, journalists’ digital safety, confidentiality of journalists’ sources, news literacy, and access to the Internet for researching and publishing journalism.

“These indicators will help countries and interested stakeholders to map their national Internet environment and then propose improvements” stressed Guy Berger, Director for Freedom of

Expression and Media Development at UNESCO. He added: “Journalists should be given a voice in this process and UNESCO is committed to engage with the journalism community”.

“We now witness the ‘weaponization’ of freedom of expression,” said Maria Ressa, Filipino journalist, CEO and executive editor of Rappler, talking about her experience as a journalist at the forefront of cyber-attacks. Mentioning Rights Indicators, she insisted on the impacts of big data on journalists: “Today, the tool used by dictatorship is not to censor but to flood, to the point of weakening journalists and institutions of trust. Anger spreads fast on social media and governments can take advantage of this.” Regarding the project to define Internet Indicators, she said that “Internet indicators will help identify areas for improvements and should therefore be used by all, and not just governments”.

“How can we reconcile the existence of a law and its implementation on the field?” asked Raju Narisetti, CEO of Gizmodo Media Group, talking about the actual use of the indicators, and the importance to follow closely the implementation phase. He also insisted on issues related to Access and Openness.

Inga Thordar, executive editor at CNN Digital International Global reach of CNN, emphasized Access to information as well as the importance to held governments accountable.

“This project and activities on Internet Universality Indicators should get active attraction from actual journalists in the newsroom, not only NGOs,” said Fatemah Farag, Egyptian journalist and founder and director of Welad Elbalad Media Services, who talked about media engagement and empowerment, as well as gender parity and the work done by the UN to tackle impunity against journalists.

A pre-event on 12 April 2018 was also held with international journalists and academia. Alexandra Borchardt (Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, Oxford), Jeff Jarvis (CUNY, USA), Magda Abu Fadil (Media Unlimited, Lebanon), and Chris Anderson (University of Leeds, UK) more specifically addressed the ROAMX indicators and issues on cybersecurity, data protection, privacy, and (self-)censorship. Some participants questioned the use of the term ‘universal’, and also mentioned that “ethical dimensions should be given much more prominence in the draft framework”.

During the third phase of the project, UNESCO will conduct further work on the draft indicators around the world, with the aim of further improvements and then publishing a final version in October 2018. This will be considered in November 2018 by the Intergovernmental Council of the UNESCO's International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC).

Thereafter, a version of the research tool is expected to be available to stakeholders who are interested to map the state of Internet Universality in their own country as a way to assess the potential of national digital issues to advance the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda.

A video of the event is available here.