A free peer-to-peer support to reporters intimidated, from Ossigeno with the MAP project

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Advice and opinions for getting one’s bearings, free consultations provided by journalists who know the problems and/or who have had similar experiences

OSSIGENO April 23rd 2022 – Peer-to-peer support for reporters in difficulty due to their publishing discomforting , unwelcome news generating intemperate  and disproportionate reactions is one of the least known but most appreciated activities among those that Ossigeno per l’informazione has carried out since 2011.

The support began as soon as the Observatory began to systematically collect information on intimidation and threats to Italian journalists with its active monitoring conducted with a methodology that ensures an accurate check of the facts. This activity was born with the need to concretely give a hand to those who in the world of information have to face alone situations of particular difficulty and need the opinions and advice of competent people to orient themselves. Such advice and opinions are not always within reach especially for freelancers and for those who work for local newspapers.

This individual support activity is closely integrated with the best known one that Ossigeno carries out: the publication of original reports, analyses and statistics that serve, above all, to break the isolation and media silence that undermines journalists who are victims of intimidation. Publishing detailed information about the journalists attacked to hinder their work and disseminating them in the environment in which they live means to be at their side and to make a concrete gesture of solidarity. It also serves to demonstrate to the sceptics, the incredulous, and all those who continue to postpone the necessary countermeasures, that these attacks are systematic and that the phenomenon is more serious and widespread than one might think by reading the newspapers and consulting the official statistics published by the Government and other observation centres which report far fewer incidents.

Furthermore, for the same purpose, Ossigeno carries out other activities:

  • provides training courses for journalists and seminars for schools on the right to inform and be informed and on how to defend against intimidation and threats from those who hinder the exercise of this right,
  • preserves the memory of journalists killed in the course of their work
  • provides Free Legal Aid to journalists subject to abusive litigation or intent on asserting their rights in trials in which they appear as an injured party. This last service is reserved for journalists who do not have legal assistance from the publisher and have few personal resources.
  • provides studies, analyses and advice on existing legislation and on bills relating to press freedom.
  • Peer to peer support is a special type of help offered to journalists in difficulty. It is help from colleague to colleague, from those who have professional skills and know from direct experience or from having dealt with similar cases the difficulties that the journalist intimidated, threatened, sued, and discriminated against is experiencing.
  • publishes news and statistics on journalists threatened for their work

Ossigeno also provides free support to reporters in difficulty, which is provided by its journalists, and experts who know how journalism is practiced t and the difficulties it entails. Hence it is peer-to-peer support.

This year Ossigeno has expanded this sector of activity, in collaboration with UNESCO, as part of the M.A.P. project – Monitoring – Protection Assistance, co-financed by Ossigeno and the Global Media Defence Fund set up as part of the Global Campaign for Media Freedom within the UN Action Plan for the Safety of Journalists and the issue of Impunity

The peer support actions envisaged are of various types. They include:

  • expressions of public solidarity necessary to break the isolation that is often created around those who suffer intimidation;
  • advice on how to deal with a specific situation, notifying specific authorities or institutions;
  • legal opinions;
  • suggestions on how to deal with judicial or other court proceedings or requests for cancellation of the right to be forgotten;
  • suggestions for obtaining legal assistance from the publisher or for accessing the services of the Ossigeno Free Legal Aid Office;
  • interaction with the competent authorities to report specific problems and issues. These also include opinions and comments on the legislative activity regarding freedom of information; suggestions addressed to all journalists s on how to deal with recurring problems and disseminate good practices.

Ossigeno discloses the support actions carried out, whilst respecting the right to privacy of the clients, when this is required, in the belief that knowing how these support actions evolve  is useful more generally, beyond the specific case, for others who suffer or could be subjected to similar intimidation. These examples also make everyone understand that the victims of many intimidations are completely innocent and deserve help and assistance. It is not enough to say that in Italy there are journalists under threat (more than in other European countries, as it turns out), it is not enough to say who they are and how many they are, that to solve their problems it is necessary to change that law. All that is necessary but it is not enough, it is also necessary to help them to overcome the difficulties they face and to find the means and strength to do so.

The MAP Project will devote attention to this aspect of the matter and also pay special attention to the intimidation directed at female journalists, which often has a sexist component and in many cases reveals a gender bias even within the journalism profession. This aspect also with regard to the language used to talk about it, will be explored in a study edited by the journalist Marilù Mastrogiovanni, in collaboration with the Master’s course in Journalism of the University of Bari. The results will be presented in November in Bari at the Forum of Female Mediterranean Journalists.

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