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Why does coronavirus also attack democracy’s airways?

At the very beginning of this year, democracy was shown to be on the decline. This conclusion is based on the figures in the Economist’s annual democracy index.

Since, matters have got worse.

Freedom of expression and press freedom are the lungs of democracy. Only if we can freely receive and share information can we truly say that “democracy” exists. Put in simple terms, freedom of expression provides democracy with the required oxygen. Coronavirus not only attacks the lungs of human bodies; it has proven equally insidious for democracy.

At the end of March, the organisation Reporters Without Borders therefore launched #Tracker19 to monitor the impact of the pandemic on journalism globally. The number 19 refers not only to Covid-19, but also to Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states that “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.” …

If you have anything to do with business, at some point you will learn about the need to have a Unique Selling Proposition (USP). What is the USP for a newsroom?

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This text is part of the recent booklet “Fighting Fakes — The Nordic Way” published by the Nordic Council of Ministers.

“Women over 65 years write very rude things on the internet.”

This somewhat surprising headline in Svenska Dagbladet was also the conclusion after one year of work by the Swedish network for research on hate on the internet, Nätverket Näthatsgranskaren. They too were surprised by this finding. Their best explanation was that these women are the true victims of fake news. …

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We all have this dangerous tendency to jump to the conclusions. That’s why journalists need to always think twice.

This speech was held at the masters degree ceremony, Department for Media & Communications, University of Oslo, Norway14th of May.

You are now professional analysts of media. The rest of us are just talking about the media constantly; what’s in the news? Why? All of us are to a large extent dependent upon professional news media and journalists. And I have been asked to address you on the Power of media today.

Being a journalist, understanding media, interpreting the times we live in — it’s not a question of being extremely speedy, witty… nor pretty. …

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Press stand Paris, Photo: Florian Plag

In the digital age, the choice between what you can do and what you choose to do often boils down to a question of ethics. Unfortunately, the decisions taken are hidden from most of us.

A few years ago, a programmer approached me after I had just finished a presentation for reporters on ethics in journalism. Back then I was secretary general of the Norwegian Press Association and regularly visited newsrooms across the country, challenging reporters and editors with current issues; should you publish this story or not? The programmer’s message was of a different kind. He was concerned about how much the journalists, the editors — and the CEOs — really understood of where the core of the ethical maneuvering had moved in the digital age.

He encouraged me to pay much more attention on data, algorithms and the development of artificial intelligence, arguing that these areas should also be part of the discussions on ethics for the press. Not least because these choices are left with little or no scrutiny for the readers at all. And they are not part of the debate on the development of journalism as such. …


Kjersti Løken Stavrum

CEO of the Tinius Trust, president of Norwegian PEN, head of the Norwegian commission for freedom of speech.

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