Sheffield researcher receives award at UNESCO meeting in Ghana

A Sheffield researcher was awarded a prestigious honour as issues of press violence and censorship were explored at a World Press Freedom Day in Ghana yesterday.

Jackie Harrison, Professor of Public Communication and Director of Research at the University of Sheffield’s journalism department, was awarded a UNESCO Chair in Media Freedom, Journalism Safety and the Issue of Impunity at the event in Accra.

UNESCO chairs were established in 1992 to encourage universities to collaborate on a global scale.

She said: “The Chair is recognition of the increasing complexity and use of restrictions – lethal and non-lethal – ranged against a free and independent news media around the world.”

Professor Harrison is also Chair and Co-founder of the Centre for the Freedom of the Media (CFOM) at the University of Sheffield, which aims to inform and advise governments, policymakers and stakeholders on threats to media freedom.

“The World Press Freedom Day means that research doesn’t just operate in a vacuum, rather it connects to real life difficult problems that a number of different groups and organisations are trying to solve,” she said.

Prof Harrison joined the journalism department at Sheffield as a lecturer in September 1996 and was appointed Professor of Public Communication in January 2005.

She served a period as head of the department from September 2007 and has chaired CFOM since September 2008.

Marie Kinsey, Professor of Journalism Education and joint head of the department at the University of Sheffield, said: “I think she [Jackie] is thrilled and certainly the department is completely thrilled. It’s a very, very prestigious post.

“This is a department which really does value the job of journalism and what journalists do. In so many parts of the world this is not an easy job, and people risk their life, so it’s absolutely right that we be should looking into ways of making journalism safe. This is a fantastic achievement not just for Jackie, but for the whole department.”

She added: “There’s nothing more important than promoting media freedom. If it was not for journalism, if it was not for journalists trying to tell people stories and making sure people understand just exactly what is going on in the world, then I think democracy is at risk, people are not informed and authoritarianism begins to take root.”

Research topics currently being undertaken by Prof Harrison include monitoring media violations and freedom for the Media Subcommittee at the Parliamentary Assembly Council of Europe (PACE) and Media Freedom in Europe.