Dr Sara Torsner

School of Journalism, Media and Communication

Postdoctoral Research Associate

Portrait of Sara Torsner
Profile picture of Portrait of Sara Torsner

Full contact details

Dr Sara Torsner
School of Journalism, Media and Communication
The Wave
2 Whitham Road
S10 2AH

Dr Sara Torsner is a Postdoctoral Research Associate with the School's Centre for Freedom of the Media (CFOM) where she works with Professor Jackie Harrison in her role as UNESCO Chair on Media Freedom, Journalism Safety and the Issue of Impunity.

Sara joined the school in September 2015 as a PhD student and completed her PhD, on understanding risks to journalism as a form of civil diminishment of collective democratic life, in 2019. Sara’s PhD project was a White Rose DTP/ESRC Collaborative PhD studentship involving the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the Centre for Freedom of the Media (CFOM).

Before joining the school Sara worked as a freelancing journalist for Swedish news outlets and has worked with journalist and press freedom organisations. Sara holds a BA and MA in political science from Uppsala University and has studied politics at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin.

Research interests

Sara’s research focuses on understanding risk to journalism via restrictions and attacks on the communicative capacity of journalism and the consequences of such constraints for collective associative civil life.

Sara’s current research builds on her doctoral dissertation entitled 'Profiling the Civil Diminishment of Journalism: A conceptual framework for understanding the causes and manifestations of risk to journalism'. Through this research Sara developed a holistic sociological approach, or risk profile, for mapping risk to journalism as a complex and multi-dimensional phenomenon in various societal settings. The risk profile facilitates an understanding of aggressions against journalism as a form of civil diminishment which renders civil society fragile when it comes to its capacity to enable inclusion, mutual respect, and a sense of common meaning among members of society.

Sara is currently working together with Professor Jackie Harrison on a book on the relationship between the civil diminishment and the civil resistance of news journalism. This book draws upon Sara’s doctoral work and Jackie’s book The Civil Power of the News. The research explores the conditions of civil diminishment of news journalism as occurring through various forms of anti-civil power that distort the civil role of news journalism and the capacity of news journalism to 'fight back' against and resist such anti-civil forces of diminishment.

Other areas of research

Global UNESCO study on the Online Harassment of Female Journalists

Sara is a co-investigator on a UNESCO funded global study on the Online Harassment of Female Journalists led by the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ).

Research project on monitoring violations against journalists in line with Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 16.10.1

Sara is co-investigator on an interdisciplinary research project that aims to strengthen current monitoring of violations against journalists in line with SDG 16.10.1. The project combines expertise from the Department of Journalism Studies and the Department of Computer Science at the University of Sheffield alongside experts in the field of human rights monitoring and civil society organisations that monitor violations against journalists in national contexts. The overall aim of the project is to develop tools that will facilitate the comprehensive analysis of shifting safety trends and contribute towards the building of a comprehensive evidence base to improve understanding of how and why violations against journalists occur.

Research on media and information literacy and the safety for journalists

Sara is part of a collaborative research project which looks at the connection between media literacy and the safety for journalists. The research is being undertaken with Silvia Chocarro from Article 19, Albana Shala from Free Press Unlimited under the auspices of the UNESCO Chair on Media Freedom, Journalism Safety and the Issue of Impunity.


Journal articles


  • Torsner S (2017) Measuring Journalism Safety. Methodological challenges In Carlsson U & Pöyhtäri R (Ed.), The Assault on Journalism. Building Knowledge to Protect Freedom of Expression Gothenburg: NORDICOM. RIS download Bibtex download
Teaching activities

Sara teaches on the MA Global Journalism degree. She is currently doing MA dissertation supervision and teaches on the module Digital Journalism for a Global Society.

Sara has previously taught on these modules:

  • The Principle of Publicity I & II

  • Media, Publics and Politics

  • Global Communication – History, Theory and Practice

  • The Victimisation of the Media

  • The Weaponisation of the Media

  • Dealing with Data: Statistics for Journalists

  • Data and Communication

  • Radio, NGOs and Conflict-Affected Areas