While the emerging digital environment offers great opportunities for journalists, it also poses challenges regarding human rights online, the safety of journalistic sources, the public access to information, the digital divide and also the gender gap in the media. This was the overall message of Russian experts, academics and journalists at a recent event in Moscow.
This assessment was part of the dialogue around UNESCO’s project to develop Internet Universality indicators, convened during the annual European Journalism Training Association (EJTA) conference, 19 October 2017, held at the Lomonosov Moscow State University.
“It is crucial to consult with journalism and media community to develop Internet indicators, as the indicators’ project draws on UNESCO’s experience with the Media Development Indicators, and it helps to measure an expanded communication and media ecosystem,” stated UNESCO’s Xianhong Hu at the event.
She explained that the project aims to help governments and other stakeholders assess the extent to which Internet Universality principles govern their national Internet environments according to five categories of indicators, concerned with: human Rights (R), Openness (O), Accessibility (A), Multistakeholder participation (M) and Crosscutting issues (X).
The Moscow meeting is part of global consultations and drew from participants at the annual European Journalism Training Association (EJTA) conference– whose theme was “Journalism Education Across Borders”.
“Internet should be understood as something broader than access to social media” pointed out by Elena Vartanova, Dean of the Faculty of Journalism at Lomonosov Moscow State University. She suggested “a majority of countries are still facing the digital divide and access to the Internet should possibly be seen as a human right”.
Tao Zhan, UNESCO Director of Institute for Information Technologies in Education (IITE), opened the consultation by asking a key question: “what is the future of education?” According to him, all answers lead to the Internet, hence the relevance of developing a safer and more sustainable Internet environment. He shared that the mission of the UNESCO IITE is the promotion of the technologies in this sphere along with ensuring reaching Sustainable Development Goals and improving the level of media and information literacy of the audience.
“Internet indicators should allow us to promote a more positive Internet environment and develop more complex approaches to tackle those complex challenges” pointed out Prof. Pál Tamás from the Hungarian Academy of Science. He expressed concerns about communicative media being used for promoting intolerance and cultivating a blind acceptance of reality, and negative experiences of disintermediation, “fake news”, hate speech, radicalization, polarization, post-factualism and sensationalism on the Internet.
“Human rights on the Internet should be prioritized when assessing Internet development” asserted Elena Sherstoboeva from the Higher School of Economics in Moscow. She suggested the use of sub-indicators such as: whether the legal framework is transparent, whether the laws promote adequate measures for human rights, and how they are implemented.
Nadezhda Azhgikhina from the Lomonosov Moscow State University stressed the gender issues that women journalists and bloggers face more and more threats online and that these issues could only be solved by a multistakeholder approach and the active participation of government, scholars and businesses.
“Modern Internet technologies should be used to prevent Internet from compromising social relations by supporting preservation of language diversity, ensure digital vitality of languages and equal possibilities and asses the rare mobility” stated Tatyana Murovana representing UNESCO IITE. She stressed “Media and Information Literacy for the well-being and progress of the individual, the community, the economy and civil society” as an integral component for accessibility indicators.
UNESCO’s project to define Internet universality indicators also provides for online contributions, which can be made in any of the six UN languages (EN, FR, ES, RU, AR, CH) at the online platform https://en.unesco.org/internetuniversality.
The project is supported by Sweden and the Internet Society, and the elaboration of the indicators will be finalized by June 2018, in partnership with the Association for Progressive Communications Consortium.