Journalism and the future of the internet: help the UN draft a new international standard for a free and open worldwide web

PERUGIA – The impact of a changing internet ecosystem on the journalism was a central topic during the 2018 International Journalism Festival in Perugia. The panel discussion, “Help the UN draft a new international standard for a free and open worldwide web”, held on 14 April, was a clear example of this issue.
UNESCO, the UN agency with primary responsibility for media freedom and journalistssafety, is consulting worldwide on what is worth counting when assessing the internet. The Director for Freedom of Expression at the organisation, Guy Berger, mentioned that the final “indicators” will form an international standard for mapping national experiences and for identifying where there are shortfalls. Berger invited journalists and people interested in journalism to contribute to this UNESCO’s project, which is developing the indicators to assess the internet in any country, by also participating in this organisation’s consultation process.
The Director at UNESCO stated that the organisation uses the acronym ROAM to identify the key principles of Internet Universality. R for Human Rights, O for Openness, A for Accessibility to all and M for Multistakeholder participation in internet governance. “If you want to have the internet for everybody, for everywhere, you need to have these principles be really respected”. During the presentation was interested to hear the opinion of the panellists, who all had a journalistic background, and took notes about the suggestions.
The CEO and Executive Editor of Rappler, Maria Ressa, asked what happen when you cannot trust governments and how we can use these indicators if we are not a government. The CEO of Gizmodo Media Group, Raju Narisetti, highlighted the “important framework” that UNESCO will provide and expressed concerns about the reconciliation between the “existence of laws with the reality of the law”. He also proposed to continue the work after September 2018 and spend time presenting “practical things on how to use this framework” and encouraging “others to do more rankings and cross-country comparisons”. The Executive Editor at CNN Digital International, Inga Thordar, echoed that having a national legal system is not enough and suggested to highlight the core message of the UNESCO’s project and what the organisation supports.
The Founder and Director at Welad Elbalad Media Services, Fatemah Farag, said that when we talk about internet accessibility we have to focus not only with governments but business algorithms, which would also be something important to consider for these indicators. Farag stressed the importance of checking how the allocated funds for these indicators are implemented, besides the fact that governments allocate funds. The Director for Freedom of Expression Guy Berger concluded that changes do not come just from international pressure. “It will be your local stakeholders who gonna drive social change”.

Pau Llosa