Communication academics from a range of universities engaged with a new UNESCO study during a celebration of World Press Freedom Day at the University of Lima, Peru, last week.
A panel of four leading academics, chaired by Dr Jamal Eddine Naji, president of the Orbicom network of UNESCO chairs, gave their assessment of the report World Trends on Freedom of Expression and Media Development.
The occasion was a special session to mark World Press Freedom Day, culminating the Orbicom conference “Communication, Public Space and Cities” which was attended by almost 900 registered participants.
Also in the session was a panel on good practices and dialogue between the judicial power and the press, led by UNESCO programme specialist Guillerme Canela and featuring comments by Dr Balthazar Morales Parraguez of Peru’s Academy of Magistrates, and investigative journalist Romina Mella.
The discussion gave concrete expression to the complementary roles of the judiciary and the media, as per the World Press Freedom Day theme of keeping power in check and highlighting the rule of law in sustainable development.
In the panel on the UNESCO World Trends Report, Prof Maria Carmen Rico de Sotelo, University of Quebec in Canada, commended the study for recognizing contradictory trends at work around the world. “There is a tsunami of messages today, but is this pluralism?” she asked.
The professor, a former UNESCO chair, advised that the experience of different generations, such as digital natives and digital migrants, and of men and women, should be considered in assessing what she termed today’s “polarized pluralism”.
Also commenting on the Report was Prof Ghislaine Azémard, UNESCO chair in Innovation, Transmission et Édition Numériques, University of Paris 8.
She said the study shows the importance of re-interrogating the meaning of freedom of expression as a universal value in a digital age with “inflation of information”, and taking into account the issues of culture and national space.
In the context of the global picture, Prof Sandro Mairata from the University of Lima signaled extensive variations in press freedom in Latin America, and the importance of ethical practices to distinguish journalism from other communications in society.
A picture of local conditions in the light of global trends was highlighted by UNESCO Chair on Communication and Sustainable Development, Prof Andi Faisal Bakti of Indonesia’s Pancasila University. He summarized key developments in the media situation of his country.
Dean of the Faculty of Communications at the University of Lima, Prof Walter Neira Brontiss, and host of the Orbicom conference, (right), and other academics attend the UNESCO World Press Freedom Day event in Peru. © UNESCO
Orbicom chair Naji said that he liked the idea of considering journalism as part of human heritage. He cautioned against laws to regulate “fake news”, proposing that Media and Information Literacy was a better remedy.
The World Press Freedom Day session was introduced by Dr Oscar Quesada, rector of the University of Lima, and Magaly Robalino Campos, UNESCO representative to Peru.
Earlier in the day, the World Trends Report was launched to an audience of journalists from more than 20 media outlets in Peru.