“What is it in the big picture that perpetuates the ‘practice of impunity’ in the killing of journalists and other media workers worldwide?”

Ramon R. Tuazon, president of the Asian Institute of Journalism and Communication (AIJC), raised this question at the conference on safety of journalists covering conflict and sensitive issues. He was invited by the research group Media, War and Conflict (MEKK) to give a response to the keynote speech of Jackie Harrison, joint head of department and director of research at the Department of Journalism Studies, University of Sheffield.

Tuazon acknowledged Harrison’s examination of “the common variables that breed impunity identified in various research studies and forums, foremost of which is a dysfunctional justice system manifested in the breakdown of the rule of law.”

He noted that political economy is the “bigger picture” that must be “seriously examined” in light of “growing public frustration or disenchantment with the failures of the current politico-economic system.” According to Tuazon, “Such frustration is also attributed to the rise of populist leaders whose messages, regardless of their inanities, resonate with the majority.  These messages resonate because they promise to ‘disrupt and disturb’ the status quo perceived to be iniquitous.”

Urging the group to engage in equally “disturbing and disruptive” discussions during the conference, he posed another question: “Could it be that there is public apathy in places where the people are over-entertained and under-informed because of too much media commercialism?”

He also suggested that researchers examine how the younger generation perceives journalist killings. He wondered aloud how the group can inspire millennials—who are “broadly (and at times unfairly) characterized as self-absorbed and ambitious”—to take the defense of the news media as an advocacy. He expressed that more young researchers should continue to include impunity in the killing of journalists in their research agenda.

His fellow “millennial” from AIJC, program officer Therese Patricia C. San Diego, presented one such paper in the parallel sessions. She shared the initial findings from AIJC’s UNESCO Participation Programme study that seeks to make recommendations on the integration of lessons on journalist safety in Philippine journalism schools’ curricula and the competencies journalism educators need in order to teach the subject matter effectively.

The conference was held from November 2-3, 2017 at Oslo and Akershus University College of Applied Sciences in Oslo, Norway.