Professor Jackie Harrison awarded UNESCO Chair

Prestigious role will extend the impact of work on journalistic safety and freedom


Professor Jackie HarrisonThe Department of Journalism Studies' joint head has been awarded a prestigious new UNESCO Chair to further her research on the threats faced by journalists across the world.

Professor Jackie Harrison, whose work explores and raises awareness of censorship and violence against reporters, takes up the first UNESCO Chair in Media Freedom, Journalism Safety and the Issue of Impunity today – on the 25th annual UN World Press Freedom Day (3 May 2018).

The new Chair has been established by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation in recognition of the extent and diverse nature of threats to free and independent journalism. These range from climates of self-censorship to imprisonment, escalating violence and murder, and impunity for the perpetrators.

Professor Harrison is also chair and co-founder of the Centre for Freedom of the Media (CFOM) at the University of Sheffield, which aims to inform and advise governments, policymakers and stakeholders internationally on threats to media freedom, in order to bring about positive changes to laws, policy and practice and to uphold standards of journalism safety worldwide.

The UNESCO Chair will build on CFOM's work by strengthening and developing links between higher education institutions, development bodies, media organisations and journalists – through its own networks and through the development and growth of the Journalism Safety Research Network (JSRN). This will focus on the areas of media freedom, freedom of expression, media development and access to information and knowledge at global, regional, national and local levels.

Safer environment

Professor Harrison, who is attending and participating in the UN World Press Freedom Day in Accra, Ghana, said: "The Chair is recognition of the increasing complexity and use of restrictions – lethal and non-lethal – ranged against a free and independent news media around the world.

The Chair is recognition of the increasing complexity and use of restrictions – lethal and non-lethal – ranged against a free and independent news media around the world

"The ongoing attacks on news journalism and journalists undermine freedom of expression and access to information. My role is to act as a bridgehead between academia and policy through the production of high-quality research, information, documentation and teaching within the Sustainable Development Goals agenda that contribute to the sustainable development of free and independent news media worldwide and ultimately a safer environment for journalists and journalism.

"To this end my colleagues and I are building a worldwide journalism safety research network, introducing new forms of measuring attacks on journalism and journalists to better understand their complexity and diversity, and researching how the factual media can aid post-conflict reconstruction.

Karen Merkel, non-executive director at the UK National Commission for UNESCO, added: "Across the world, journalists routinely face serious threats to their lives. Over 255 journalists were jailed and 82 journalists were murdered in 2017 and 19 in 2018 so far. These deaths are the decisive weapon against freedom of expression and in more than 90 per cent of these killings, no-one has been brought to justice.

"I join others in wholeheartedly welcoming Professor Jackie Harrison as UNESCO Chair in Media Freedom, Journalism Safety and the Issue of Impunity. UNESCO is the UN agency with a mandate to foster freedom of expression, press freedom and freedom of information. I know that Jackie’s many years of experience and in-depth knowledge will add greatly to UNESCO’s expertise. I very much look forward to her joining the UK’s UNESCO family in this role."

UNESCO Chairs were established in 1992 to promote co-operation between universities worldwide through collaboration and the sharing of knowledge. The programme has helped to strengthen research outcomes and policymaking by linking academia with government and local communities. It brings together more than 700 higher education institutions in 116 countries.

More about the UNESCO Chairs programme

International standing

Professor Sir Keith Burnett, President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sheffield, congratulated Professor Harrison on being awarded the UNESCO Chair.

He said: "Professor Harrison is a leading scholar with an outstanding international reputation for her research in this field. Her international standing and her leadership of CFOM have ensured that it has grown rapidly and become influential in the increasingly vital field of media freedom.

"Through her UNESCO Chair, I’m delighted that Professor Harrison can build on the work of the centre to undertake research into the variety of forms of intimidation and censorship media workers face around the world and to research and critically advocate practical policy recommendations that help monitor, expose and ameliorate these threats."