In 1993, following a UNESCO recommendation, the UN General Assembly established May 3rd as World Press Freedom Day.
This year SOJC faculty Peter Laufer, Gabriela Martinez and Dan Morrison as well as students Michelle (Mike) Goris and Max Brown joined in the celebration at the World Press Freedom Day International Conference in Costa Rica. In addition, Goris and Brown were part of the UNESCO Youth Newsroom.
This is the second year in a row members of the SOJC attended the conference. Laufer took two students to the event in Tunisia to participate in the conference and produced a short documentary.
“Clearly freedom of the press is essential to The School of Journalism and Communication,” Professor Gabriela Martinez said. “It was an honor to be part of World Press Freedom Day and celebrate the values we hold in such high regard.”
As preparation for their visit, the SOJC team planned to create a short video profiling the winner of the 2013 UNESCO Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize, Ethiopian journalist Reeyot Alemu.
Prior to leaving for Costa Rica, Professor Laufer learned that Ms. Alemu was in prison and inaccessible to the reporting team. Their information gathering techniques and production tools would need to dramatically change.
Days before their departure, the SOJC team made contact with Ethiopian journalist Endalkachew H. Mikeal, who happened to be a close friend of the Alemu family. Because of that connection, Martinez was not only able to interview Alemu’s family and Mr. Mikeal via Skype.
Once Martinez had the footage they needed, Goris (editor) and Brown (assistant editor) were put to the test. “A one-day deadline is almost unheard of,” according to Goris.
With the help of executive producer Peter Laufer, producer Dan Morrison, and Director/Producer Gabriela Martínez the team finished the piece just in time for the central day of the conference when Alemu would normally receive her award.
Professors and students agree that this kind of pressure is not something that can be replicated in a classroom and the challenge was well worth it.
Laufer credited the entire team with the ability to pull off the remarkable turn around. “This year, in particular, the expertise of Professor Martinez in Central American human rights affairs plus her documentary production skills combined with those of Dan Morrison’s, who produced the Tunisia documentary last year, along with the experience and motivated students Mike Goris and Max Brown, meant that the SOJC fielded a solid crew at this critical event.”
To continue the UO’s relationships with UNESCO, Laufer is working with Steven Shankman, the UNESCO Chair in Intercultural Dialogue, to create an UNESCO Category Two Institute at the University of Oregon.
“Nothing speaks to the goals and purpose of the SOJC more than press freedom,” Laufer said, “and the global orientation of the SOJC makes an ongoing relationships with UNESCO and World Press Freedom Day of critical importance.”