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Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies - European University Institute

Voices Festival: 1,300 people attend first edition

On 14-16 March 2024, the first edition of Voices, the European Festival of Journalism and Media Literacy, made of Florence the capital of journalism and information.

21 March 2024 | Event

Photo of the fair area during the Festival at the Leopolda station with people and a big screen in the background.

Three days of an interactive setting with a mission, that of reshaping our relationship with information; and a conviction: a more informed society is a freer one.

“In a digital information sphere where almost anyone can say almost anything, the basic questions of who is a journalist, what is a medium, what content is credible and authentic, and which sources should we trust, become difficult to answer”, explained Research Fellow Iva Nenadic during the opening evening. The need for criteria amid all this noise led the Centre for Media Pluralism and Media Freedom at the EUI to embark on the organisation of such an event together with other six European partners.

The Stazione Leopolda became the heart of debates on topical matters like misinformation, individual well-being in the digital environment, the challenges facing today’s world of journalism, the impact of artificial intelligence on the media, as well as the upcoming European elections.

“Regarding freedom of the press, Italy is far from European standards. There is no measure against lawsuits gagging”, signalled President of the Italian National Press Federation Vittorio di Trapani during the session dedicated to the situation of freedom of the press in Italy.

A particularly inspiring moment followed the discussion ‘We are humans, hear our stories’ on safety of journalists, which exposed the extreme, but also the more subtle attacks journalists face. "When I was attacked one year and a half ago because I was reporting on an illegal restaurant, my phone was stolen while filming. I was shaking and I was so afraid, I even considered not reporting at all. For a day I just wanted to hide and have a normal life. As much as we love journalism, it is not an easy life, and it is not easy for our families either", shared the President of the European Federation of Journalists, Maja Sever, when introducing the conversation.

After the panel, festival’s attendees had the opportunity to meet the speakers personally and engage with them. The panel counted the participation of Matthew Caruana Galizia, a press freedom activist following the murder of his mother Daphne, assassinated in 2017 for her investigations into Maltese government corruption; the Spanish journalist Marc Marginedas (kidnapped for six months by ISIS); and Georgine Kellerman, who feared that coming out as a trans woman would prevent her from doing her job.

The aim of the festival programme was to offer a comprehensive overview of the current times; society and communities inundated with abundant information, yet where accurate news often fail to prevail. This resulted in a great range of parallel activities targeting different audiences. For instance, the focus on policy regulation came hand in hand with the session examining the recently approved European Media Freedom Act (the first attempt in the EU history to give a common framework ensuring the 27 different media systems operate in the interest of citizens).

“It is a regulation, which means that it prevails over national law, and individuals can also claim it (...) This is the first time that journalists can have their rights defended by the EU if something goes wrong" explained Anna Herold, Head of the Audiovisual and Media Policy Unit at the European Commission.

On the other hand, more individual-related concerns were also tackled, such as how to empower parents in the digital age and the elements they should consider to help their children navigating the online world: "The richest digital experience happens where there is a family capable of accompanying. The family makes the difference, and this depends on the connections, the presence of one another and the relationship of trust, not so much on digital skills", stated sociologist Piermarco Aroldi.

The festival experience at its core consisted of a line-up of free workshops, two exhibitions, live music and an exhibition area consisting of numerous interactive activities. During these days, the Voices Awards ceremony also took place, awarding 10 prizes of 1,000 euros each to five promising journalists and five media literacy advocates.

The festival is an itinerant initiative, and the next edition will be held in Zagreb in February 2025. More updates will be available at the Voices website.

Last update: 21 March 2024

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