Fojo Media Institute organised a study trip to Stockholm focused on improving the working conditions of journalists in Eastern Europe, Central Asia, the Caucasus, and the Western Balkans, as part of the program supported by the OSCE.
Participants – 27 journalists, editors, and media managers – explored the work and practices of media institutions and organisations: Swedish publishers organisation and Media Ombudsman, media outlets such as Svenska Dagbladet, Expressen, and public service media, the Swedish Union of Journalists, Fojo’s program staff and domestic journalists and investigative reporters.
Inspiration from Swedish media and institutions
“We are in journalistic heaven,” said one participant during the study trip. The inspiration coming from press freedom and work conditions is obvious – traditionally Sweden has the highest level of media independence. What is not as obvious, is the fact that Swedish journalists have increasing battles to fight, as almost 30% of them have been threatened in the past year. Yet, the safety systems in place are the ones that keep journalists feeling more secure.
Psychological, digital, and personal safety and security in newsrooms have been a cornerstone of this study trip, with all participants working on the development of change projects in their own countries.
These country-projects focus on establishing better mechanisms for safety and security. As the result of the study trip, new contacts have been established among the participants, and also in Swedish media, which will improve their projects, and expand the cooperation and conversations on journalistic working conditions.
“I appreciated the level of training organised, the visits to media houses, and the experts that shared useful expertise with us” concluded one of the participants, with another adding: “The program was diverse and useful, which allowed us to get acquainted with the experience of Sweden in the personal and psychological protection of journalists. The fact that there were a lot of practical tips was also valuable.”
Developing policies, driving the change
Personal, psychological, and digital safety and security improve the newsrooms and the work of journalists – a topic that needs to be more developed, using the experiences of countries and the media that have progressed further. Specific guidelines, practices, and protocols enforced in a newsroom provide more safety for journalists, and performance is increased in spaces that feel safe and respectful. The balance and calibration are important – sometimes, substantive security measures can be scarier than the threat itself.
Fojo’s partners in this program, coming from 10 countries (Ukraine, Moldova, Armenia, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Kosovo, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Serbia) will continue to work on developing policies to improve their work environment.