The 39th Biennial Conference of the International Association of Women in Radio and Television (IAWRT) took place from 18 to 20November 2022, hosted by the chapter in Tanzania. Delegates from all chapters worldwide met in Zanzibar under the headline Gendered Media Perspectives: Conflict, Covid and Climate Change.
The main plenary on the first day was Afghanistan after Taliban: Status of Women Journalists. The testimonies came from members of IAWRT Afghanistan in exile and online, Najiba Ayubi, Kreshma Fakhri, Somaia Walizadeh – and Abdul Basir Quraishi.
Reena Mohan from India and Elisabeth Eide from JMIC (online) also shared their experiences about the status of the Afghan journalists after Taliban came to power in Afghanistan. Sharmini Boyle of Internews Pakistan was also present online, and the book “Lives, Jobs, Homeland:Afghan Women Journalists Lose All” was launched.
Digital Safe House (DSH)for journalists at riskwas the focus of another session. Speakers were Colette Simonne Heefner of International Media Support (IMS), Oona Solberg of JMIC and Sue Onslow of Institute of Commonwealth Studies. Therese Patricia San Diego Torres told about the experiences of the pilot project DSH in the Philippines and Birgitte Jallov presented DSH Moldova. Also Greta Gober spoke; as the one who came up with the idea of a DSH originally.
Countdown to Climate Change was the title of another plenary discussion moderated by Michelle Ferrier, the new international president. JMICs Elisabeth Eide also participated online in this panel together with Lia Torres fromCenter for Environmental Concerns in the Philippines, Becky Bisong from Cameroon and Monica Magoke Mhoja and Maria Matui from Tanzania.
The outgoing IAWRT president and treasurer, Violet Gonda and Jola Diones-Mamangun presented their reports in the final session. Chapter reports from Afghanistan, Cameroon, India, Iraq-Kurdistan, Kenya, Nepal, Norway, Moldova, Philippines, Tanzania, Uganda, USA and the new IAWRT chapter in Sierra Leone followed. Different committees also shared their reports. The turned-over ceremony of the new IAWRT International Board was also one of the highlights of the conference.
The photojournalistic collaboration between Bangladeshi and Norwegian institutions was mentioned when Arve Ofstad presented his new book “Norway and Bangladesh A Fifty-Year Relationship 1971-2022” in Oslo 28 October.
Under the headline “Photojournalism – an important tool for the free press” the cooperation between the internationally renowned photojournalist Shahidul Alam and his Pathshala South Asia Media Institute and the photojournalism education in the Department of Journalism and Media Studies at OsloMet since 2003 is described:
“They have become familiar with and have adapted to other cultures and have been exposed to new challenges in participating countries. At the same time, they have learned new techniques and acquired an international network. In many countries, journalism is a vulnerable profession, and photojournalists can document events that others want to keep hidden.”
Several previous ambassadors were present when the Norwegian translation of the book was launched in Norad – Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation in Oslo.
The current Norwegian ambassador to Bangladesh, Espen Rikter-Svendsen, drew the line back to 14 April 1972 in his opening. He also told about the ambitious celebration in Dhaka in the spring, when the English translation was launched.
State Secretary Erling Rimestad talked about the successful efforts to reduce poverty and the current challenges regarding freedom of expression and democracy in Bangladesh.
Executive Vice President Rita Skjærvik in Telenor emphasized their contribution to digital development in the country, one of the largest mobile markets in the world.
Environmental anthropologist Camelia Dewan presented her research about the containerships in Chittagong (now Chattogram), and emphasized green recycling.
Director General of Norad, Bård Vegar Solhjell, was born the same year as the cooperation between Norway and Bangladesh started. He pointed to the stunning development the country has gone through, and sees democracy and human rights, climate changes and the size of the Bangla economy as important in the years ahead.
“Safety of Journalists Training Program” was held in Istanbul on October 15-16, in cooperation with TOVAK (Turkish Social Services Foundation), TGS (The Journalists’ Union of Turkey) and JMIC-OsloMet.
The first day of the training was entirely allocated to Abeer Saady, one of the distinguished international safety experts working with JMIC. In a total of 4 sessions, interactive training content on how to stay away from violence and how journalists can protect themselves, and the risks and threats that reporters frequently face were discussed.
On the second day of the training, how journalists can also protect their mental health when applying for psychological support, and legal aspects of journalism safety and digital security were discussed in 3 separate sessions. All sessions had content covering both the offline and online safety of journalists.
The lessons were very productive thanks to the hands-on training method that allowed the participants to share their experiences and learn from each other. At the end of the 2-day training, most of the participants said that they found the training very satisfying, with reference to the awareness they gained on journalism safety and the practical knowledge they gained. In addition, they stated that they wanted to cover all their deficiencies in this regard with more detailed, longer-term training in the near future.
The safety handbook “What if…” by Abeer Saady is translated to Turkish. Abeer Saady was asked to do a safety training in Turkey when the book was launched by TGS before the summer, and she is invited back again.
The Faculty of Humanities, Forman Christian College (A Chartered University) (FCCU), in collaboration with the Department of Journalism and Media Studies and Journalism and Media International Centre (JMIC) at Oslo Metropolitan University (OsloMet) in Norway, hosted a three-day workshop on “Peace Journalism” on the topic of “Surviving the social media onslaught: Mainstream journalism, peace, and democracy in the transitional societies” in Lahore in Pakistan 11 – 13 October 2022.
If we agree with Marshal McLuhan in the slightest possible way, the advent of social media ushers is the dawn of a new phase in human civilisation. The rise of social media has taken the world by storm: online aggression, polarisation in human societies, populism, fake news, alternative truth, and many challenges outweigh the original euphoria of the arrival of the new saviour. There is no doubt about the positive influence of the social media: interactive discourse patterns, freedom to express ones views without any dependence on external gate keepers, voices for the voiceless, representation of the marginalised. All these but seem to be a lost cause amid the chaos created by echo chamber mentality through creating communities of consent. The public sphere is lost to the populist and the ‘unfinished project of modernity’ seems falling apart.
The three day peace journalism workshop on Surviving the Social Media Onslaught: Mainstream Journalism, Peace and Democracy in Transitional Societies was organised at Forman Christian College University, Lahore in collaboration with Journalism and Media International Center, OsloMet Norway from October 11 to 13, 2022. Head of the department of Journalism & Media Studies at OsloMet, Anne Hege Simonsen also participated in the Lahore workshop.
77 participants registered through a Google link, 51 of these were invited, while 45 successfully completed the workshop to win their certificates of participation. All universities offering mass communication degrees in Lahore were represented in the workshop. Participants from Multan in southern Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (Peshawar and Swat), Karachi, and Islamabad also participated in the activity. Working journalists from Lahore and Peshawar were also among the participants. The workshop program was organised around four themes: theoretical concepts of peace journalism within the context of social media and preservation of democracy, practical journalists’ insights into the working of the social media dominated media structures in Pakistan, technological aspects of social media platforms’ perils and potentials, expertise from fields outside academic and practical journalism.
All the four thematic streams contributed to the understanding of the working of mediated societies in transition. The academic presentations of research projects gave an insight into the working of the research structures in Pakistan. These were mutually beneficial for the presenters and the audiences, the former getting valuable feedback from a well versed audience, while the latter having access to the latest developments.
The theoretical submissions were balanced by the experiences from the field. Working journalists gave their views on the practical impact of social media on their everyday working in the media. Views from outside the realm of peace studies and journalism came handy through inputs from counter insurgency and counter terrorism perspectives. It also made clear the distinction between the former and the latter two, peace studies being a social process, believing in the goodness and equality of humankind, while anything counter (insurgency or terrorism) serving as strategic responses by political structures used by state apparatuses, resting on the premise of a belligerent other within the same society.
Last but not least was the discussions on the ethical pitfalls in times of war. Truth being the first casualty of any aggression, leaving no victors. The presentation on visual literacy helped the audience to identify their own biases to move out of their personal utopias and become more self-reflective. The discussion on public sphere within the context of Juergen Habermas’ latest book were the highlight of how theoretical underpinnings could be used to practically develop a discourse.
Like all things human, the workshop deepened our understanding of the new media, the challenges and potentials it offers, and how to harness these independent energies for the betterments of human societies. The possibility of a global and shared idea of humanity is very much in sight. It is a vague path with no guarantees or milestones. The only way to explore is to keep moving forward and digging deeper to unearth the best possible option for peace and democracy through our feeble capacities as journalists and educationists.
In May, Norwegian and Palestinian students collaborated at OsloMet, investigating the conditions of press freedom in seven countries
The Rig on press freedom is a journalistic end-of-year-project that has been an annual happening for the first year journalism students at OsloMet for more than a decade.
Professor Elsebeth Frey and her colleague Mathias Falch have arranged the same project at An-Najah National University in Nablus, Palestine in 2017 and 2019, and in May this year, Palestinians that participated in these workshops joined the Norwegian students during the Rig.
The Norwegians and Palestinians worked together in small groups with interpreters, writing news stories about the press freedom in Tanzania, Lebanon, Tunisia, South Africa, Austria, Spain, and the Czech Republic.
This is the first time OsloMet receives student visits from abroad during the Rig.
Marie Lauvdal collaborated with Reem Maree on an article about freelancers in Lebanon.
– It helped a lot when we were interviewing sources from Lebanon since Reem spoke Arabic. She also helped me translate various websites and videos, Lauvdal said.
Aziza Jaljouy worked with the Tanzania group.
– It makes you think about how different press freedom is in different countries, she said.
Read more about the Palestinians experience of the Rig:
On Tuesday 14 June JMIC (Journalism & Media International Center) at OsloMet presented a report on the development of Afghan journalism after the Taliban takeover in mid-August 2021.
The study is based on analysis of media content from six Afghan outlets, as well as interviews with prominent media leaders, and journalists still working inside Afghanistan. It is to our knowledge the most comprehensive report on this issue so far.
The event was addressed by:
H.E. Youssof Ghafoorzai, Afghanistan’s Ambassador to Norway, Oddgeir Osland, Dean at the Faculty of Social Sciences, OsloMet, and Knut Olav Åmås, Director, Free Expression Foundation.
The report was presented by:
Elisabeth Eide (Professor Emerita, project leader), Hasina Shirzad (MA student, OsloMet), and Zahir Athari (researcher, UiO).
Other team members are postdoc fellow at OsloMet Mahmud Farjami as well as Abdul Mujeeb Khalvatgar, Director of Nai-SOMA, a media watchdog in Afghanistan, who could not be present at the occasion.
The presentation was followed by comments from Mr. Sharif Hassanyar, previous Director of Ariana TV network in Afghanistan Kristian Berg Harpviken, Research Professor, Research Professor at the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO)
Responses from the authors and questions from the audience.
The event was streamed for those who could not attend physically.
While speaking at the commemoration of the World Press Freedom Day on May 5, 2022 in Kampala, Uganda, Baryomunsi said that the government has allowed “reasonable press freedom in Uganda.”
“The position of government is that the media should be free. I have spoken in audiences of security and police officers and I have insisted that media practitioners should be given freedom and space to practice their profession,” Baryomunsi said before further pledging that: “As long as I am the minister in charge of information I will insist that the police and security have no right whatsoever to harass journalists as they do their work because media practice and journalism is a service like any other.”
His comments came in the wake of increased attacks on journalists by the police and army that have left several journalists injured and their equipment destroyed. A press freedom index released recently by a local NGO, Human Rights Network for Journalists – Uganda shows that the Police and the army are the leading perpetuators of press freedom violations in Uganda.
The recent attacks on journalists have seen Uganda’s 2022 ranking in the World Press Freedom index drop to 132 from 125 in the previous year.
Baryomunsi acknowledged that media practitioners and journalists need to be supported and protected because they perform an important role in society.
“We need to work together and we need to support journalists, to protect them but also most importantly to respect and appreciate that they are also doing their work,” he said.
The keynote speaker, Robert Kabushenga advised journalists to change their mindset as well as retooling and reskilling themselves to fit in the new digital world.
The commemoration of the World Press Freedom Day was supported by the Journalism & Media International Centre of Oslo Metropolitan University.
The Department of Journalism and Communication, Makerere University in Uganda has hosted a one week session of the Rig Press Freedom project.
The reporting on press freedom focused on five countries namely; Rwanda, Zimbabwe, South Sudan, Germany and Burundi.
Thirty three final year journalism students participated in the project. They were divided into five groups, with each group focusing on one country. The five groups of students were supported by five local teachers and one support teacher, Dr. Florence Namasinga Selnes from Oslo Metropolitan University.
The main task of the participating students was to write news stories on the media freedom environment in the assigned countries. The project started on Friday 22, April with a lecture to students and staff of Makerere University on Press Freedom that was given by Dr. Namasinga Selnes.
According to the participants, the project has been very beneficial and full of experiences, making it a better orientation into the journalism practice.
“I have learnt how to report international stories. I have received exposure of how to relate with international sources, “Rehema Namagembe, one of the participants said. “My participation in the Rig has helped me to build confidence in interviewing people on phone and making thorough research on stories outside Uganda,” Daphine Nakabiri, said. Another participant, Gloria Irankunda said: “I got to know that media houses in most African countries operate under hardships in form of threats and physical assault.”
The Head of Department of Journalism and Communication, Dr. Aisha Nakiwala spoke of the students experience with the Rig as enriching in terms of helping students to appreciate the press freedom environment in other countries.
The project was sponsored by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs through the Journalism & Media international Centre (JMIC) of Oslo Metropolitan University. This is the second time the Department of Journalism and Communication, Makerere University has hosted this project. The first Rig project was conducted in 2018.