The issues raised by today’s global and multicultural societies are complex, and it is urgent for the research community to help improve our understanding of current problems. Digitization has changed our communication systems in terms of time, space and social behaviour; it has changed functions as well as management practices and the market by adding new types of transnational companies. These changes have transformed the public sphere. The context of freedom of expression has shifted, and the research community has to regain its sense of context. Globalization processes force us not only to focus more on transnational phenomena in general, but also to note and explore differences.
The overriding long-term objective of this Chair in Freedom of Expression, Media Development and Global Policy is to generate knowledge from a much more holistic perspective regarding vital issues than is the case today. This will be accomplished through networks, conferences, seminars, expert meetings and publications. Target beneficiaries on national, regional, international levels will be the research community, experts, policy-makers, media professionals and students.
1. Safety of Journalists – Knowledge is the Key
International Conference, within the WPFD 2016 main programme in Helsinki, 3-4 May, organized in collaboration with UNESCO and IAMCR. Conference proceedings will be published in 2017.
Many experts are aware that effective prevention of threats and attacks against journalists requires increased knowledge. Research is needed to clarify the patterns in social conditions, legal frameworks, journalistic practices and media companies’ measures, all of which are crucial to the safety of journalists. In particular, this concerns the complicated issue of impunity for deadly attacks against journalists. Such issues have often been ignored in the contemporary research, but now there is an urgent call for empirical results, theoretical insights and analytical concepts from the research community. That is the background for this first international research conference.
2. Freedom of Expression and Media in Transition. Global Issues – Nordic Research
Editor of the book, ‘Freedom of Expression and Media in Transition. Studies and reflections in the digital age’, published by Nordicom, University of Gothenburg 2016. The book will be introduced during the opening ceremony of WPFD 2016 in Helsinki, and all participants in WPFD will receive a copy.
In recent years, there has been widespread concern about the ability of the media to maintain and develop their role as a pillar of democracy. Advances in technology and changes in the political and social context in which the digital technologies operate have given rise to a number of dilemmas, and these in turn demand new approaches and strategies to ensure the full and proper application of freedom of expression. A number of challenges have to be taken into account if we are to succeed in resolving these complex issues regarding freedom of expression, press freedom and the role of journalists and communication rights in contemporary communication societies – in an era of globalization and digitization. It is in such a spirit the chapters in this book should be read. Most of the contributing authors are Nordic researchers working on global projects.
3. 250th Anniversary of the first press freedom law at WPFD
A conference in connection with the WPFD main event 2 May 2016 in Helsinki, “Forsskål’s Mandate. 250 years of Freedom of Information’, organized in collaboration with National Archives of Finland
In 2016, the world commemorates the adoption of “His Majesty’s Gracious Ordinance Relating to Freedom of Writing and of the Press”, recognized today as the first press freedom law. The passage of the Ordinance in Sweden in 1766 was preceded by intense political and scholarly debate. Peter Forsskål, Swedish and Finnish scholar and one of Carl Linnæus’s most promising apostles, put himself at the centre of that debate when he published the pamphlet “Thoughts on Civil Liberty”. Forsskål’s pamphlet had an immense impact on society and the course of history in Scandinavia and beyond. Some claim it paved the way for the proclamation of the American Declaration of Independence of 1776, and the French Déclaration des droits de l’homme et du citoyen of 1789. The conference brings together researchers, lawyers, publishers and journalists to discuss Forsskål’s legacy, as well as its impact on contemporary press freedom and freedom of information legislation.
4. Media and Information Literacy on the Political Agenda
A high-level meeting at the Ministry of Education organized in collaboration with the Swedish National Commission for UNESCO and the Swedish Library Association, February 2016; Expert contribution to the Governmental Inquiry ‘A media policy for the future’, April 2016; Involvement in Global Alliance for Partnerships on Media and Information Literacy (GAPMIL) as well as the European Chapter of GAPMIL (meetings 2016-2017).
Media and information literacy has been an important issue on the Chair’s agenda for many years, on both national and global arenas. The foundation for this work is the notion that media and information literacy is a matter of protecting, promoting and developing freedom of expression in the digital era, and that such literacy is based on proven knowledge and experience.
5. Global Free Speech at the University of Gothenburg
The establishment of a platform for multidisciplinary research, educational cooperation and collaboration with society at large.
The University of Gothenburg has an ambition to reinforce knowledge about freedom of expression and democracy. The UNESCO Chair has therefore initiated a project called Global Free Speech, the aim of which is to establish multidisciplinary collaborations as well as – and not least – collaboration with society at large and to stimulate knowledge development and education processes in the area (2015-2017). A forum for dialogue has been established. A diverse group of partners are included. During 2016, when the 250thAnniversary of the Swedish Press Freedom Act – the first of its kind in the world – is being celebrated, the activities are many and often have a historical perspective.
6. Investigation of the general Swedish public’s attitudes towards freedom of expression and media
Survey and analysis in 2016 and publication of a report in 2017.
Every year, the SOM Institute at the University of Gothenburg conducts a number of independent studies – nationally, regionally and locally – in an effort to identify changes in how Swedes behave and feel about various phenomena and why these changes occur. The national study in 2015 includes a number of items on freedom of the press and media. A report will be published based on the results of collected data from this study.