IGF 2019 WS #402 Progressive Policies for Digital Media

Organizer 1: Waqas Naeem, Media Matters for Democracy
Organizer 2: Sadaf Khan, Media Matters for Democracy
Organizer 3: Salwa Sameer Rana, Media Matters for Democracy
Organizer 4: Talal Raza, Media Matters for Democracy Pakistan

Speaker 1: Asad Baig, Civil Society, Asia-Pacific Group
Speaker 2: Qurratulain Zaman, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)

Speaker 3: Xianhong Hu, Intergovernmental Organization, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)

Policy Question(s): 

What are the key enablers and challenges to digital freedom of expression? How are cyber-security regulations affecting the development of digital news media ecosystems? How are regulatory regimes affecting the online media freedom of journalists? How have online threats to the safety and security of digital journalists translated into offline threats and harm, and how can policy and legal protections help in this regard? What are problems attached to the implementation of policies that can be considered progressive and what are possible solutions? What role should Internet platforms play in defining the standards for acceptable content in light of freedom of speech? Should Internet platforms take into account cultural and religious factors when defining these standards? How can online risks and threats to women journalists be reduced through regulation and technology? How can feminist principles of the Internet advise in protecting the online media freedom? How can the clash between cultural relativism and the right to free speech be prevented? How does the freedom of expression for journalists be weighed against the freedom of speech demanded by far-right extremist groups? How can tech platforms support innovation in the digital news media? What kind of collaboration could be created among Internet platforms and media outlets to fight disinformation and fake news?

Relevance to Theme: The proposed workshop session will look at the risks to the security and safety of online journalists to identify ways in which resilience can be built in digital journalism networks around the world. It will also allow for discussions on the role of technology platforms and governments in protecting online freedom of expression. The session is relevant to the theme due to its focus on safety of a specific kind of Internet users – journalists – and the stability and resilience that is required in systems through policies and laws to help journalists feel secure.

Relevance to Internet Governance: The proposed workshop session will encourage discussion on collaboration between government, civil society groups, and technology industry to arrive at shared principles and decision-making procedures to protect freedom of expression online at the same time as discouraging the spread of disinformation through social media platforms. In terms of the use of the Internet for ensuring the rights to free speech and free press, the discussion will be highly relevant to the spirit of Internet governance.


Panel - Auditorium - 60 Min

Description: Around the world, journalists and news organizations have turned to digital media, including social media platforms, to inform their audiences and show truth to power. Even though examples of digital news media innovation have been observed in various parts of the globe, more common and consistent are the threats that journalists now face online. From coordinated trolling campaigns to doxxing of their personal data, digital journalists are faced with a new set of risks that force them towards self-censorship. In many instances, physical attacks on journalists have been reported after they had been subjected to online harassment and abuse. Women reporters and journalists from marginalised communities are especially subjected to hate online. At the same time, the community standards of social media platforms and government laws on cyber-security have failed to adequately protect the journalists. In this context, the proposed panel discussion will look at the foremost issues facing the online news media while acknowledging the attempts at digital innovation. The workshop session hopes to identify the progressive action required from governments and technology companies in terms of laws and policies that will allow for better protections for online freedom of expression. The panel discussion will feature brief talks from four speakers who have worked closely on media freedom and digital media innovation in different parts of the world. Following the talks, the moderator will lead an interactive discussion with the speakers and participants to provide answers for some of the policy questions related to the online freedom of expression debate. The agenda of the proposed workshop session is as follows: Introduction (Moderator, 3 minutes) – The moderator will introduce the session and the speakers before briefly sharing the agenda. Talk # 1 (Speaker # 1, 10 minutes) – Speaker Gayathry Venkiteswaran (University of Nottingham Malaysia) will talk about the state of online media freedom in the Asia Pacific region and the way state policies and attitudes are affecting the journalists. Special focus will be on the cultural and religious factors that obstruct online press freedom in the Asia. Talk # 2 (Speaker # 2, 10 minutes) – Speaker Asad Baig (Media Matters for Democracy, Pakistan) will speak about the use of social media by journalists in the South Asian region, the threats they have been exposed to as a result, and the kind of support online freedom of expression requires from social media platforms and governments. Mr. Baig will also focus on the experience of women journalists in India and Pakistan who have had to face coordinated online campaigns that discredited their journalism and sometimes also used deep fakes to malign their character. Talk # 3 (Speaker # 3, 10 minutes) – Speaker Chirinos Mariengracia (Institute Press and Society Venezuela) will speak about the monitoring of digital freedom of expression in South America and will share the risks of online expression to journalists in the Americas. Talk # 4 (Speaker # 4, 10 minutes) – Speaker Qurratulain Zaman (DW Akademie) will speak about her report on digital innovation for DW Akademie and share insight on how digital innovation can be used to counter some of the digital threats to journalists. Q&A session (Speakers and participants, 15 minutes) – The moderator will take questions from the audience and request the speakers to respond. The moderator will also quickly connect the questions and responses with policy recommendations. Thank you note (Moderator, 2 minutes) – The moderator will briefly recap the conversation and thank the participants and speakers.

Expected Outcomes: The expected outcomes are given below: 1 An identification of the diverse and evolving challenges to online freedom of expression. 2 Discussion on the effectiveness of digital innovation in protecting online freedom of expression. 3 Recommendations for progressive policies to ensure that the online freedom of expression of journalists is not compromised.

Onsite Moderator: 

Waqas Naeem, Civil Society, Asia-Pacific Group

Online Moderator: 

Salwa Sameer Rana, Civil Society, Asia-Pacific Group


Talal Raza, Civil Society, Asia-Pacific Group

Discussion Facilitation: 

Interaction and participation will be incorporated by devoting a quarter of the session time to a Q&A session with the audience. Online participation will also be ensured with the help of the online moderator who will field questions from the online participants and share them with the moderator to seek responses from the participants.

Online Participation: 

Remote participants will be able to follow the talks by the speakers and will be able to participate in the Q&A session with the help of the online moderator.

Proposed Additional Tools: The online moderator will use Twitter to share the salient points from the talks of the speakers and the comments during the Q&A session.


GOAL 10: Reduced Inequalities
GOAL 16: Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions