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Scottish Media Freedom Summit 2019


Friday 19 July 2019

08:30 – 18:00

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LG34, Paterson’s Land, Holyrood Road, Edinburgh EH8 8AQ


Press freedom around the world is under increasing threats. Journalists are being killed, imprisoned, demonised and censored at alarming rates. In 2018, according to Reporters Without Borders, 66 journalists had been killed worldwide, while in 2019, 174 journalists, 150 citizen journalists and 17 media assistants have been imprisoned during the course of their duties. Beyond this, the work of journalists has been devalued and demonised, opening the door for violence, disinformation and legal restriction against journalists everywhere. Democracies need functional and independent journalism to hold the powerful to account so any attack on media freedom is an attack on democracy.

How can we defend media freedom? How can we better protect journalists, media workers, cartoonists, photographers and publications from threats to silence them?

In partnership with Scottish PEN, the National Union of Journalists,  the Saltire Society and the University of Edinburgh Law School, we will answer these questions in this free full-day conference exploring modern press freedom through the threats we face.

The event will feature two keynote speeches that will explore key and pressing threats to press freedom, including Elda Brogi, the Scientific Coordinator of the Centre for Media Pluralism and Media Freedom to explore the state of media plurality and ownership in Europe.


Throughout the day, we will host a series of panel discussions from leading experts, journalists, academics and activists exploring threats to press freedom from a range of themes including:

Safety – This panel will look at the threats of violence, imprisonment and censorship facing journalists around the world; the murder of journalists challenging power; how states imprison media workers to stifle independent criticism and what that does to encourage others to avoid sensitive topics.

Structural – How do structural issues affect how able journalists are to cover important issues that require public attention. This panel will explore issues around representation and trust in media institutions, how they are able to represent local and marginalised communities too often ignored; as well as digging into complex issues around media ownership and monopolies and what that means for media plurality.

Legal – Laws around the world can be used to restrict media freedom and target journalists. This panel will discuss how laws, including hate speech, surveillance, defamation and privacy, whether by design or bad drafting, can make it nearly impossible for journalists to operate free from the threats of legal action and potential imprisonment.

Spotlight – This panel will invite leading journalists based in Scotland to learn more about their experiences working on long investigations, dig into a number of investigations that have helped frame public debate and explore the threats to investigative journalism, both in Scotland and around the world.


At the same time there will be a range of interactive workshops to build your understanding and offer hands-on experiences on a range of important issues connected to media freedom.

Fact-Checking – Disinformation, misinformation and propaganda has defined how we engage with information and journalism in the modern digital age. So how do we differentiate between fact and fiction? Ali Brian of the Ferret Fact Service will lead this session helping you interrogate allegations and press coverage, identify trusted sources and protect yourself from being duped by false information.

Digital Security & Privacy – Pervasive digital surveillance threatens the ability of journalists to engage with sources and whistle-blower’s willingness to reach out in the public interest. Nik Williams of Scottish PEN will lead this session to explore how everyone can take steps to protect themselves online, identify potential threats and pick apart surveillance capabilities that could target journalists.

Freedom of Information – FOI legislation enables everyone to access information held by the state and public authorities, enabling us to be better informed and hold the state to account. This session will walk you through the process of making a FOI request, best practice to receive the information you are looking for and what you can do if you meet resistance.

What does right-respecting regulation look like? – Content moderation and take down notices govern how content is published and shared online. But with vague hate speech laws and opaque terms of services and policies this can be a distinct threat to free expression, press freedom, as well as affecting the willingness of marginalised communities to speak up. This session will enable people to contribute to what rights-respecting regulation of online spaces could look like and explore any potential challenges that we need to face.

Food and refreshments will be served throughout the day and there will be opportunities for everyone to contribute to imagining a future where press freedom is defended and at-risk writers are protected.



Tags: , scotland, media freedom, Scottish PEN, Saltire Society, University of Edinburgh Law School, surveillance, disinformation, FOI