10th Austin Forum on Journalism in the Americas
Forum addresses increasing violence towards journalists in the Americas
The endemic problem of violence against journalists in Latin America and the Caribbean was the topic of a three-day conference that attracted more than 70 journalists to Austin, including experts and representatives of international organizations such as the United Nations, UNESCO, Organization of American States, Committee to Protect Journalists and Journalists Without Borders.
The conference, on May 20-22, was the Austin Forum on Journalism in the Americas and was organized by the College of Communication's Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas at The University of Texas at Austin and the Open Society Foundations.
The topic of the Austin Forum was "Safety and Protection of Journalists, Bloggers and Citizen Journalists in Latin America and the Caribbean." Countries such as Mexico, Honduras, Colombia and Brazil have been among the most dangerous in the world for journalists, and the seminar addressed how journalists can protect themselves and each other through networking, support and more intervention from governmental and non-governmental organizations.
Rosental Calmon Alves, founder and director of the Knight Center and UNESCO Chair in Communication at UT, said that everyone knows that journalists are balancing the notions of press freedom and personal safety on a daily basis.
With that in mind, Alves said the central idea of the forum is "to articulate what to do about that. How can we take advantage of the networking between the organizations here, funders present here, and the journalists who are engaged in this continental, global concern about safety issues?"
This was the 10th edition of the Austin Forum, an annual conference that has brought together a committed network of organizations and journalist leaders from Latin America and the Caribbean to focus on media development and training, and is one of the main programs of the Knight Center.
Victims of violence also brought their stories to Austin, including former Veracruz, Mexico, reporter and photographer Miguel Angel Lopez Solana. The journalist pleaded for assistance to aid his Mexican colleagues and announced that he and his wife were seeking political asylum in the U.S. following the murder of his father and brother, also both reporters in Veracruz, and mother by unidentified gunmen in 2011.
The participants of the forum, who traveled to Austin from 24 countries, discussed not only ways to face the problem of physical violence against journalists, bloggers and citizen journalists, but also the increasing threats they are facing online. Experts explained the vulnerabilities of digital communication, especially for journalists working in dangerous places, and argued that more training in cybersecurity is an urgent need for reporters and editors in the region. The possible role of social media to inform and engage the public was also introduced.
An extensive report will be published on the Knight Center website in the coming weeks with the main conclusions and recommendations of the Austin Forum.
The Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas was created in 2002 from a donation by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and has trained thousands of journalists in Latin America and the Caribbean to help create local and independent organizations of reporters interested in improving journalism in their countries. The Knight Center is also supported by the Open Society Foundations, the College of Communication, The University of Texas at Austin and other donors.
Laura Byerley, (512) 471-2182