As part of the Journalism Safety Research Network (JSRN) initiative, the Centre for Freedom of the Media (CFOM) and UNESCO joined forces to present research related to the issue of the safety of journalists and media and information literacy at the 2020 International Association for Media and Communication Research (IAMCR) online conference which started on 13 July.

This is the third consecutive year that CFOM and UNESCO jointly arrange activities at the annual IAMCR conference as a means to share some of the research currently being undertaken within the Journalism Safety Research Network.

Three papers exploring theoretical and practical perspectives on media literacy and the (un)-safety of journalism were presented as part of the Journalism Research and Education Section panel entitled Journalists’ Safety Issues.

Discussing the ways in which media and information literacy is commonly approached as a key competence or “enquiry based skill” that cultivates citizens’ ability to access, evaluate, create and share information and media messages” (UNESCO, 2013), a skill set which has become increasingly important as part of efforts to increase the publics’ resilience to information disorder and to fight “fake news”, the panel papers argued that a neglected dimension of media and information literacy is the relationship between a media and information literate citizenry and journalism safety, where media literacy can be used as a strategy to safeguard journalists.

Acknowledging that whereas journalism must be scrutinised by citizens with media and information literacy skills to ensure that it adheres to standards of truthfulness and accuracy (Harrison, 2019), the papers emphasised that journalism itself is increasingly exposed to public discrediting through political narratives that seek to undermine its societal relevance and civil value. Such rhetoric presents journalism as the culprit of disinformation and as being hostile to society itself and licences attacks on journalists’ reputations
and safety’, ‘perpetuat(ing) the degradation of journalism to the detriment of civic discourse” (Ireton & Posetti, 2018).

In their paper ‘Theorising the relationship between media literacy and the (un)safety of journalists’ CFOM’s Jackie Harrison and Sara Torsner argue that strategies to secure journalism safety must consider how the relationship between journalism and citizens’ media and information literacy is prone to attack from state and market power that produce conditions of un-safety for journalists. Their paper presented a theoretical framework illustrating why a media and information literate society that understands journalism’s societal relevance, is more likely to defend it against attacks. Silvia Chocarro and Albana Shala’s paper ‘Building relationships of trust with communities as a means to protect journalism and journalists’ examined how a strong relationship of trust between journalism and communities of audiences, through media and information literacy, serves to protect journalism in contexts of media repression by creating “pockets of resistance”. Guilherme Canela, Saorla McCabe and Theresa Chorbacher’s paper ‘Articulating safety of journalists and media and information literacy strategies in a multi-stakeholder media ecosystem’ discussed how journalism safety and media and information literacy strategies must target a range of stakeholders, beyond the constituencies traditionally addressed by media and information initiatives, and integrate a gender perspective.

For more information please contact Sara Torsner (