The Safety of Journalists in Times of Infodemics

Conference: November 2-3, 2021, Oslo, Norway.

The term ‘infodemics’ had its breakthrough in 2020. The term – a combination of information and pandemics – describes a rapid and important spread of both factual and false information in a situation marked by uncertainty, also for those who are expected to disseminate information about the pandemic. In some countries journalists are being deprived of the right to report on the pandemic and experience increased risk associated with covering the governments’ social and economic policies. Several organizations working with the safety of journalists, such as Reporters Sans Frontiers (RSF) have repeatedly documented in 2020 attacks and direct violence against journalists covering Covid-19. This includes both coverage of the actual situation at a given time, as well as for instance coverage of demonstrations against strict Covid measures.

Desinformation, so-called fake news and conspiracy theories were central topics in the public debate already before the arrival of the pandemic. Over the last year, the world has indeed experienced how dangerous it may get when there is a lack of safety in journalists’ work environment while disinformation and conspiracies about infection, actions and consequences flourish. The pandemic brought excellent conditions for disinformation and conspiracy theories to grow. They can contribute to weakening confidence in the media and can in some cases be increasing hostility towards journalists.

RSF’s survey for 2020 shows that as the number of journalists killed in war situations decreases, increasingly more journalists (2/3 of those who lost their lives) are killed in countries not at “war”, and more and more often while investigating sensitive issues. Those behind the attacks on journalists and free media are rarely prosecuted and we know little about who they are.

One of the conference tracks will be dedicated to gaining more information and knowledge about those behind threats against journalists, with an emphasis on times of pandemics and crises We are particularly interested in studies of cases where journalists have joined forces to complete investigations started by journalists being harassed or even assassinated, aiming to keep stories alive, refusing to surrender to censorship. The conference will emphasize that protecting journalists and media workers, in addition to physical security, also is about their financial and legal security.

The purpose of the conference is to produce knowledge about measures that can improve the situation for journalists and journalism. This can be linked both to what journalists can do to protect themselves, both individually and in groups, and to collective and structural measures to protect journalists to end impunity for violence against them. The conference is also open for papers on more general safety issues for journalists and media workers.

We call for papers on topics such as (but not limited to)

  • Consequences of infodemics on the safety of journalists
  • Risks to journalists caused by false information
  • Digital security
  • Education and safety of journalists
  • The safety of journalists in authoritarian “democracies”
  • Effects of campaigns and other actions to improve the safety of journalists
  • Teaching safety in journalism education
  • Killing the journalist won’t kill the story – studies on collaborations in to protect journalism
  • Safety measures, both individually and collectively

We encourage studies with gender perspectives.

Paper presentations:

If you want to participate with a paper, an abstract of maximum 250 words and a short bio focusing on possible earlier experience with research/practice in the field of safety of journalists/digital safety should be uploaded to https://nettskjema.no/…737 before August 15, 2021. Please include your full name, institutional affiliation, and email. There is no registration fee and the participants are expected to cover their own costs for travel and accommodation.

A limited number of scholarships to cover flight and/or accommodation is available for Ph.D. students and researchers from low-income countries. Applications for scholarships should be submitted with the abstract together with a short CV.

The best papers will be considered for a forthcoming peer reviewed publication. Questions should be directed to safetyofjournalists@oslomet.no