In November, the Wits Centre for Journalism attended the 9th Annual International Conference on the Safety of Journalists (MEKK) at Oslo Metropolitan (Oslomet) University in Norway. This is the third time the WCJ has participated in the conference, as part of the multi-national Safety Matters PhD programme which is jointly run with Oslomet, Wits, the University of Sao Paulo (Brazil) and the University of Tulsa (US).
Under this year’s theme of advancing safety in environmental journalism, the MEKK conference offered a dynamic programme featuring a range of speakers, seminars, a screening of the documentary film 20 Days in Mariupol, and an artist presentation on violence against women, which was deeply relevant to the safety of journalists.
The conference presentations included alarming reports on the growing numbers of journalists killed and detained, and looked at why covering the environment is an increasingly dangerous beat, with a moving discussion about how the indigenous Nasa people (from Colombia) are protecting the environment and innovating forms of investigative communication.
WCJ director Dr Dinesh Balliah presented a paper on anti-trolling mechanisms, while Dr Nechama Brodie engaged multimedia artist Gabrielle Goliath on her trauma-informed work “Personal Accounts”. Wits master’s student Azania Mosaka also presented her research paper on how editors manage journalism-related trauma in South African newsrooms.
This year WCJ travelled with three South African PhD students who joined the Safety Matters programme – Amukelani Matsilele and Lawrence Hill from Wits University and Gerben van Niekerk from the University of the Free State, who participated in workshops alongside PhD students from Brazil and the US to produce concept papers for new research projects which they presented at the end of the conference.