New book about safety of journalists in focus at World Press Freedom Day

02 May 2017

Journalists are threatened and killed around the world when exercising their right to freedom of expression. At the celebration of the World Press Freedom Day the book The Assault on Journalism. Building knowledge to protect freedom of expression will be launched. The book is one of the first global research work on safety of journalists. 

The book is the result of a collaboration between University of Gothenburg, UNESCO and the International Association for Media and Communication Research (IAMCR).

“People who exercise their right to freedom of expression through journalism must be allowed to practice their work without restrictions – but the obstacles are many. Every day we see new forms of censorship and repression, self-censorship, surveillance, monitoring and control, gatekeeping, propaganda-disinformation, acts of terror, anti-terror laws, criminalization of encryption and/or anonymity, hate speech and harassment, as well as organized crime,” says Professor Ulla Carlsson, who is the main editor of the book and UNESCO Chair on Freedom of Expression at University of Gothenburg.

Nearly 850 journalists, media workers and social media producers have been killed during the past ten years. A clear upward trend in the rate of journalists’ killings can be observed, and nearly 60 per cent of all cases, took place in countries where there has been armed conflict.

“A total of 95 per cent of these professionals were local, the same applies to non-lethal attacks, which range from intimidation, harassment and arbitrary detention to sexual attacks directed against women journalists,” says Ulla Carlsson.

Silencing these actors through violence constitutes a serious threat to freedom of expression.  Equally worrying is the fact that in more than nine of ten cases of journalists’ killings, the crime remains unsolved. The result is a vicious cycle of impunity – a climate of fear and self-censorship.

“Even in countries that are ranked high on a number of indexes measuring the vitality of democracy voices are silenced through expressions, made on social media, of hatred, harassment and threats to journalists and other media workers – all of which is about creating fear,” says Ulla Carlsson.

Journalism has expanded beyond traditional news reporting in the era of globalization and digitization. To protect, promote and develop freedom of expression and freedom of the media in this digital era, an absolutely fundamental prerequisite for progress is knowledge development, and not least comparative studies.

“If we are to address the elusive relationship between media, assaults on journalism and freedom of expression, we need to bring together researchers from different parts of the world,” says Professor Carlsson.

The publication, which contains contributions that have involved nearly 50 researchers around the world, should be seen against such a backdrop. 

“Moreover, the work has shown a great courage displayed by several scholars in countries like Nigeria, Pakistan, Mexico, Turkey, etc.,” says Professor Ulla Carlsson.

The book is available to download (open access) or order as a print copy from Nordicom’s website:


Information about the book and Nordicom
Ulla Carlsson is Professor and UNESCO Chair in Freedom of Expression, Media Development and Global Policy at the Department of Journalism, Media and Communication, University of Gothenburg. She is the former Director of Nordicom. Co-editor of the book is Reeta Pöyhtäri at Tampere University. She is former Expert, Division for freedom of expression and media development at UNESCO in Paris.

The 1993 UN General Assembly proclaimed the 3rd of May to be World Press Freedom Day. This was a response to a call by African journalists, who in 1991 produced the landmark Windhoek Declaration on media pluralism and independence. The day celebrates the fundamental principles of press freedom: to monitor press freedom around the world, to defend the media from attacks on their independence and to pay tribute to journalists who have lost their lives in the exercise of their profession.

Nordicom is a knowledge centre in the field of media and communication research, at the University of Gothenburg. Starting from academic research, Nordicom collects and adapts knowledge, mediating it to various user groups in the Nordic region, Europe and elsewhere in the world

For questions about the book or its content, please contact Professor Ulla Carlsson, phone: +46 786 80 88 74, e-mail: