Articulating safety of journalists and media and information literacy strategies in a multi-stakeholder media ecosystem


This paper argues that in order to harness the beneficial effects of media information literacy (MIL) on safety of journalists, strategies must be multistakeholder-driven and sensitive to intersecting forms of discrimination (including but not limited to sexism and racism).

Media and information literacy can improve safety of journalists by fostering understanding of different actors on the important role played by the media in democratic societies. This will in turn influence decision-making that is based on the premise of protecting journalists and their contribution to society.

Firstly, the paper argues that in order to harness the beneficial effects of MIL for journalists’ safety, it is necessary to involve stakeholders that go beyond constituencies that are traditionally addressed by MIL initiatives. Specifically, the paper looks at two areas: on the one hand, the role of judiciary actors in protecting safety of journalists; and on the other, journalists’ safety in times of elections, specifically in the context of disinformation campaigns.

Examining these two case studies, the paper discusses how building the MIL competencies of these actors can contribute to creating a safer environment for journalists.

Judicial operators in some cases lack basic understanding not only of the role of journalists in a democratic society, but also of the practical implications of journalistic work. It is therefore necessary to engage in enhancing skills of judicial operators, including judges, on the journalistic process of gathering, assessing, creating, and presenting news and information, or topics such as source protection.

Furthermore, journalists are specifically threatened during times of elections and within the context of disinformation campaigns. This paper claims that electoral management bodies should be included in MIL efforts. If electoral regulators recognize the role of journalists and have a basic understanding of the journalistic process, they can perceive journalists as allies in fighting disinformation campaigns. However, this also implies an understanding of media independence.

Secondly, this paper argues that media information literacy must take into account intersecting forms of discrimination in order to contribute effectively to improving the safety of journalists. This includes gender-based discrimination, but also racism and other forms of identity-based violence. Threats and violence against journalists are informed by discriminatory ideas such as sexism and racism and therefore, deconstructing these ideas as well as addressing openly possible strategies in combating them must be part and parcel of MIL efforts.

In conclusion, this paper puts forth two key claims, namely the need to adopt a multistakeholder approach when employing MIL strategies for safety of journalists and the need to mainstream the issue of intersecting forms of discrimination into these. By looking at two different areas related to journalistic safety, actors involved as well as issues at stake, the paper suggests that MIL can be a key component in creating an ecosystem that promotes safety of journalists more effectively.