Knight Blog

The blog of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Welcoming more voices in fight for media freedom

May 2, 2012, 5:15 p.m., Posted by Amy Starlight Lawrence

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A map showing 2012 World Press Freedom Day events around the world

Freedom of expression advocates are gathering over the next few days to consider the state of media freedom and its future as part of the annual World Press Freedom Day.

This year’s focus is on bringing new voices to the efforts around media freedom. The events, taking place all over the world but hosted in Tunis, Tunisia, are organized by UNESCO – United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. It includes partners such as IREX, the U.S. Department of State and the Open Society Foundations.

Knight Foundation's role this year includes helping five World Press Freedom Day Fellows attend events in Tunis so they can participate, blog and tweet.

“These are people who persevere in the face of limited resources, personal danger, and bad laws to make a difference in citizens’ access to information – but who don’t regularly get to interact with international counterparts and gain skills and strength from sharing their experiences,” said Drusilla Menaker, Senior Media Advisor at IREX.

Here’s more information on each of the fellows. Check back over the next few days as we’ll be embedding links to their live blogs from Tunis.

·      Justin Arenstein, South Africa, @justinarenstein

Arenstein is co-founder, publisher and CEO of African Eye News Service, the region’s first rural, independent investigative newswire agency and now southern Africa’s largest independent newswire.  As a Knight International Journalism Fellow, he is currently piloting four mobile news delivery systems at media organizations affiliated with the African Media Initiative in sub-Saharan Africa.

·      Brenda Burrell, Zimbabwe

Burrell is co-founder and IT Director at Kubatana.net, Zimbabwe’s civic and human rights information portal.  The Kubatana Trust of Zimbabwe manages Freedom Fone, a project for which Burrell serves as director. Freedom Fone is a voice-based platform that allows mobile phone users to engage in civic debate, activism and mobilization through social media and communication technologies.

·      Sandra Crucianelli, Argentina @spcrucianelli

Crucianelli is an investigative journalist and instructor specializing in digital resources and data journalism.  As a Knight International Journalism Fellow, Crucianelli is creating technological tools to help reporters in South America analyze material and investigate important stories.  She is also creating the first team of investigative journalists at La Nación and is working with the local chapter of Hacks/Hackers to collect and visualize data. Her May 7 blog is titled "Worrisome Data, From Tunis."

·      Joseph Warungu Mureithi, Kenya @Warungu

Mureithi is a Knight International Journalism Fellow working with Rhodes University to establish a pan-African network of journalists who regularly cover poverty and development issues and who will be assisted by development experts to inform and enhance its reporting. He is training journalists on the use of data-gathering and data-visualization techniques.

·      Ayman Salah, Egypt @aymansalah

Salah is a Knight Fellow who helped launch the Middle East News Agency’s SMS news service and worked with the USAID-funded Media Development Program to assist news organizations in becoming more profitable.  He is currently establishing Hacks/Hackers chapters in the Middle East with the goal of expanding local technology that supports development of independent, Arabic-language media in the region.

IREX started the fellowship program at last year’s World Press Freedom Day as part of an effort to include more digital journalists whose work advances media freedom in their countries.  “It’s exciting that technical innovation and social media are having a viral effect on a lot of the freedom issues that we care about,” said Michael Maness, Knight’s vice president/journalism and media innovation.

During last year’s World Press Freedom Day Knight Foundation’s Senior Adviser to the President, Eric Newton, called for important new freedom of expression measurements to better reflect the realities of the digital age. Freedom of expression advocates point out that all other freedoms depend upon it.  Since the media vanguard is digital, it’s good to see that this year’s program reflects the concepts of including new voices in the conversation and promotes all types of media freedom. Perhaps it signals a change in the organizer’s thinking on whether it should continue to be called World Press Freedom Day.

UNESCO is mapping and sharing World Press Freedom Day events across the globe using the platform of a former Knight News Challenge winner, Ushahidi. With live streams, blogs, and events hosted locally and around the world, there are a number of opportunities for people to participate in this year’s events.

By Amy Lawrence, project specialist at Knight Foundation

Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. The foundation promotes media freedom by helping to safeguard the rights of journalists worldwide and supporting public information campaigns about the value of freedom of information and open government. Knight believes that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged.