IREX presents at World Press Freedom Day conference
At this year’s World Press Freedom Day conference in Uruguay, organized by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, Cultural Organization (UNESCO), IREX was represented by members of the Securing Access to Free Expression (SAFE) initiative and the Ukraine Media Partnership Program (UMPP). The attending UMPP alumna—a journalist from the Public Broadcasting Company and editor of nationally televised, ongoing coverage about the war in Ukraine—brought to this conference an important Ukrainian voice and contributed to discussions on current developments in the region.
Meanwhile, SAFE staff conducted a side event in the form of a drop-in safety clinic at the World Press Freedom Day conference, focusing on the psychosocial impact of surveillance and how journalists and media professionals can deal with it. The session demonstrated the interconnected nature of surveillance threats and their impact on a journalist’s digital, physical, and psychosocial safety and well-being. While the conference focused largely on digital risks to journalists and media professionals, SAFE looks at safety holistically—all risks will affect digital, physical, and psychosocial well-being, even if on the surface it only effects one of those categories. The drop-in safety clinic was able to provide a safe space for discussion on the psychosocial triggers journalists face while under the threat of surveillance and how to mitigate those risks proactively. The intended impact of IREX’s session at World Press Freedom Day is to emphasize the relationship between threats to journalists, the risks media professionals face, and the need to protect freedom of the press.
IREX is proud to be able to support journalists, media professionals, and human rights defenders in their ability to continue their vital work and is committed to providing these individuals with the trainings, resources, and tools needed to mitigate risks proactively and contribute to the vibrant, global media landscape. Our presence at World Press Freedom Day is an essential part of the organization’s mission to extend access to quality information. Learning from the threats journalists and media professionals themselves encounter in their constantly changing operating environment, IREX continues to improve knowledge globally on holistic safety and strives for universal protection of freedom of press.
As the international community observed World Press Freedom Day on May 3, journalists and human rights defenders globally still face an alarming number of risks in their day-to-day work in bringing the public accurate, vital information. Physical attacks and risks are rampant, as full-scale wars are breaking out in some regions, protests on civil rights issues increase, and COVID-19 continues to be a threat. Additionally, as the world increasingly relies on the digital realm to communicate, journalists and activists face continual harassment online, digitally based attacks on security, all while doing their best to counter the spread of mis-and disinformation.
Finally—yet crucially—the psychosocial well-being of these individuals is constantly being challenged, as they are surrounded by triggers. So far in 2022, 17 journalists have been killed, continuing a concerning trend of systematic infringements on the right to freedom of the press. In 2020, an astonishing 283 journalists were jailed—the highest number since recording began in 1992. World Press Freedom Day acts as a reminder to the public, as well as government institutions, of the necessity of press freedom for reliable access to accurate information.
For more information on the impact of surveillance and safety, see IREX’s infographic on how activists can manage their online identities to protect themselves. For further information on the session “Psychosocial Impact of Surveillance: Why Should We Care and How to Deal with it” contact SAFE directly at SAFE-DC@irex.org.