Current and emerging media challenges at the heart of the first day of the International Journalism Forum 2023

Disability in journalism, providing solutions to misinformation as a service and trust in the press among the topics explored

Journalists representing both domestic and international media outlets, alongside esteemed scientists, academics, and aspiring students, comprised the diverse and extensive audience that actively engaged in the inaugural day of the International Journalism Forum 2023, organised by iMEdD. The gathering placed a spotlight on an array of issues that extend beyond national borders, resonating with the global journalism community, as these issues continue to reshape the contemporary media landscape.

During her opening remarks at the Forum, Anna-Kynthia Bousdoukou, Founder & CEO of iMEdD and a journalist, emphasised, "We need a collective reality check. At a time when journalism is both discredited but also targeted by those it strives to hold accountable, we need to find the appropriate response. We need to remind ourselves the importance of journalism. And the only way to achieve this is by being together as a community, like today.”

"In these transformative times, we find ourselves amidst a landscape marked by violence, exaggeration, a lack of trust, and above all, pervasive insecurity across all levels. Within this dystopian backdrop, media professionals are compelled to navigate a perpetual balancing act between dependence and trustworthiness, and between control and freedom. In recent years, journalism has grappled with pathologies and distortions that seem to have become the new norm, with all the implications this holds for our future. Nevertheless, the iMEdD team remains resolute in their commitment to viewing the glass as half full,” remarked Stratis Trilikis, iMEdD Co-Founder and Programme Director, and a journalist, sending a resounding message of introspection and unwavering optimism.

The first panel discussion of the day placed a spotlight on the critical issue of press freedom in Greece, featuring the active participation of esteemed European media freedom experts. Throughout the panel session, they shared their conclusions and reflections after finishing their three-day fact-finding and advocacy mission in the capital, during which they met with leading journalists, editors, state authorities and government officials, as well as the government’s Task Force for media. Among those offering insights, Jamie Wiseman, Europe Advocacy Officer at the International Press Institute (IPI), emphasised the challenges faced by journalists in Greece. Wiseman noted, "Since 2020, we have watched with astonishment the challenges, threats and attacks on journalists in Greece. The hammerlocking with the murder of Karaivaz in 2021 and wiretapping scandals and spyware software infiltrating computers have been significant setbacks.

Following this discussion, the forum shifted its focus to exploring how newsrooms can better serve the disability community. Subsequently, participants were informed about the multifaceted challenges encountered by investigative journalists when delving into immigration-related issues. Matina Stevis-Gridneff, Brussels Bureau Chief of The New York Times, shared her thoughts on this matter, acknowledging the emotional toll it takes on journalists. She reflected, "We bear a heavy emotional burden, but it is essential to remember that the people we write about have it so much worse than us. But what is also evident is that there is a large-scale organised assault on reporters who write about migration, a testament to the challenges we face."

Omer Benjakob, an investigative journalist hailing from the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, captured the audience's attention by delving into a contemporary and pressing issue—disinformation as a service. He astutely remarked, "In the realm of fake news, once you’ve created credibility, manipulation becomes possible.”

The second part of the event commenced with a thought-provoking question: Are there credible safeguards against media outlets that claim to serve journalism but are, in reality, involved in the production and dissemination of misinformation? This question ignited a stimulating discussion centred on the concept of self-regulation within the media and journalism industry. The discourse also explored strategies aimed at upholding the integrity of journalists as they work in the public interest and within their profession.

The subsequent session shifted its focus to the promotion of gender-inclusive journalism, featuring discussions on the experiences of journalists championing diverse narratives and the transformative impact of incorporating gender perspectives in news coverage. Following this, an open dialogue centred on the practices of funders and strategies for bolstering independent journalism. Abhijit Das, Programme Director at Stichting Democratie en Media, noted, “In the future, there is a need to establish participatory funding and to fundamentally change the philanthropic model. Historically, we have primarily operated under models of concentrated power, but now, a shift towards greater participation is imperative.

Concurrently, the event featured the screening of the documentary titled "Bad Blood," created by Saska Cvetkovska, Co-Founder and Executive Producer of the Investigative Reporting Lab (IRL). This documentary is a part of the investigative docu serial “The Newsroom” tasked to maximize the impact of investigative nonprofit newsroom through collaboration with filmmakers and campaigning.

The opening day concluded with three speeches presented by the Black Box production team from the Finnish newspaper Helsingin Sanomat. The speakers included Tuomas Kaseva, Jaakko Lyytinen, Olli Nurminen, and Heidi Väärämäki. They covered a range of topics, including the role of live journalism, the green transition in Lapland, and factors contributing to a lack of singing skills, such as amusia, inadequate practice, and stress.

The International Journalism Forum's programme for today features sessions featuring executives and journalists from both domestic and international organisations, including RSF, CPJ, Investigate Europe, and CSIS. One particularly intriguing highlight is the discussion centred around the research conducted by Investigate Europe, which focuses on the desolate state of railways in Europe, encompassing our own country. Remarkably, this "prophetic" study was originally published in 2021, yet its relevance persists and continues to be of significant interest.

The iMEdD International Journalism Forum will take place from September 28 to 30, 2023, at the Athens Epidaurus Festival, 260 Pireos Street, Athens.

Registration is available online and on-site during the Forum hours.

The full programme is available here.