Panel Two Recordings

National and organizational policies covering the safety of Filipino journalists: A policy assessment study

Mheryll Giffen Alforte, Christine Janine Cortez, Theriz Lizel Silvano and Jeremaiah Opiniano

University of Santo Tomas (UST), The Philippines

The habitual neglect of fundamental rights and journalism safety in the Philippines has created a landscape of impunity and widespread violence. Even its laws are weaponized by state actors to suppress journalists. With combined efforts entrenched to improve press freedom and prioritize the safety and protection of journalists in the Philippines, This qualitative policy assessment study aims to determine what national and organizational policies cover journalists’ safety in accordance with the ‘Safety and Protection Mechanism’ commitment under the Philippine Plan of Action for the Safety of Journalists (PPASJ), specify the extent those policies provide protection to the journalists, and describe the recent improvements of organizations. The researchers conducted key-informant interviews with ten respondents from identified news and media organizations, followed by a policy assessment analysis of relevant public and organizational policies related to journalists’ safety. Findings showed that the gathered national laws and organizational policies are insufficient to guarantee journalists’ safety, and they do not directly fall under PPASJ’s Safety and Protection Mechanism. However, improvements in the newsroom include heightened productivity and increased awareness of journalism safety. With these results, this study serves as a courteous reminder for news and media organizations to establish safety policies and strengthen their safety practices to diminish the experienced dangers of the profession.

Taking its toll: Investigating the impact of legal intimidation on watchdog journalists

Barbara Longo-Flint

University of Sunderland

Investigative journalists, commonly referred to as watchdogs, have a crucial role in uncovering concealed information and holding those in power accountable (Carson, 2020). Nevertheless, influential individuals and organisations prefer hiding their secrets and weaponising the law to silence journalists. These vexatious lawsuits inflict psychological, physical, and financial distress on journalists, potentially leading to self-censorship and curtailing public interest investigations. Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPPs) are a form of legal intimidation employed to silence journalists and suppress media freedom (Borg-Barthet et al., 2021). Furthermore, recent research suggests that SLAPPs are frequently combined with organised online abuse to shame and discredit journalists personally and professionally (Posetti et al., 2020). Drawing from a survey involving 52 investigative journalists in the United Kingdom and Italy, this study reveals that 75% of participants have experienced legal intimidation. The findings show that such abuse and intimidation negatively impact journalists’ mental health (52%), with a significant percentage feeling inadequately supported by their publishers (52%). In addition, the research delves into the impact of legal threats on journalistic practices, specifically focusing on the chilling effect. This is assessed by analysing the frequency which journalists are forced into redacting or abandoning accurate public interest stories. Qualitative interviews with investigative journalists from both countries will further validate and address the survey findings. By comparing the experiences of investigative journalists in the UK and Italy, the research aims to uncover the diverse social and emotional responses to abuse and intimidation under different legal systems. The study aims to enhance the ability of journalists to withstand such forms of intimidation by creating resources to assist and safeguard them, as well as providing effective techniques and practices that journalism educators can incorporate into their training programs and existing modules. The findings highlight the importance of safeguarding media freedom, advocating for legislative reforms, strengthening support networks, and promoting international awareness to mitigate the adverse consequences faced by those who fearlessly hold power to account.

State weaponization of laws against journalists in Zambia & LEA’s impunity 

Youngson Ndawana and Joanne Knowles

Liverpool John Moores University

In November 2022, two journalists working for the private MUVI Television, Innocent Phiri and Cameraman Obvious Kapunda were arrested and detained overnight by the Zambian Police while they covered live, a police raid of an opposition leader’s home. This came on the heels of a series of incidences affecting journalism have been recorded in the last decade. In mid-2016, Zambia’s Post newspaper was shut down and its journalists harassed by Zambia police following a hurried liquidation on alleged outstanding tax obligations. Later in August 2016 after the general election in Zambia, broadcast licences for two other news media outlets, MUVI Television and Itezhi Tezhi Radio were suspended. In early April 2020, Prime Television, a leading broadcaster’s operating licence, was suspended by the state regulator, the Independent Broadcasting Authority, IBA, over allegations it declined to run free Covid-19 related PSAs. Amidst these events, Law Enforcement Agencies, LEAs, have targeted and harassed several journalists/outlets. This unpredictable work environment has left journalists apprehensive about their safety. This demonstrates impunity by state agents against journalists. This explores how these practices and lack of protective laws affect professional journalists. We use the In-Depth-Interview (Mack et al. 2005), approach on selected journalists, and Critical Discourse Analytical Framework, (Flick, 2013, Bryman, Liao & Lewis-Beck 2004), to examine the impact. Preliminary findings show apprehension among them, leading to a culture of ‘co-optation of allies’ among security agencies, as well as adoption of ‘survivalist journalism’ strategies to scale the terrain. This is compounded the by a lack of laws that protect journalists. As relations between state authorities and the journalism industry have been a critical issue globally in public life in recent years, this research offers a case study of specific regional (global south/sub-Saharan African) conditions relating to international nuanced debates on this issue. The research contributes to understanding journalism practice and journalism culture within the wider global context.

Muffled Narratives: Indian Journalism under the Shadow of Legal Constraints

Neerej Dev

St Joseph’s College Devagiri, India

Indian journalism, with its increasingly de-territorialized nature, is under significant pressure due to a lack of explicit legislative protections, resulting in an environment far from free. While the freedom of the press is derived from the constitutional guarantee of freedom of speech and expression for all citizens, this same legislation is subject to various restrictions, leaving journalists vulnerable to prosecution on charges like sedition and counterterrorism. This research explores the in-depth issues, shedding light on the legislative inadequacies and ambiguities facing journalists in the rapidly evolving Indian media space. Without a specific shield law in place, journalists have no assurance of source confidentiality, further restricting their ability to report freely. Additionally, reports of authorities targeting journalists and silencing independent media are on the rise, making the media space more hostile. The emerging landscape of digital journalism, including blogging and citizen journalism, challenges traditional legal definitions of “journalist” and “news media”, blurring jurisdictional boundaries and creating ambiguity for practitioners. Moreover, there are calls for statutory regulations to create a dedicated media regulatory body. Yet, any such regulation must be thoughtfully designed to safeguard the media’s fourth estate role in democracy and protect journalistic freedoms, rather than suppressing them.