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Journalism, Law, and Freedom

by Richard Meckien - published Dec 14, 2015 03:10 PM - - last modified Jan 14, 2022 02:46 PM

The research group Journalism, Law, and Freedom is a transdisciplinary project linked to the Department of Journalism and Publishing of the USP's School of Communication and Arts (ECA), and simultaneously to the Institute of Advanced Studies.

Its central goal is to deepen the research, the understanding, and the academic and public debate on (a) the genealogy of press practices, seen as an institution that is independent of the State, (b) the self-regulatory principles that have historically constituted this genealogy and (c) the multiple normative standards involved: the individual (spontaneous and voluntarily adopted by its practitioners), the social (posed by the demands of society or the market without state mediation) and the state-owned (positive law and governmental or judicial control mechanisms).

Such normative standards can both contribute to the improvement of journalistic behavior (as in the case of professional ethics) and act as threats to freedom (as often happens with mechanisms that restrict the right to inform and be informed, imposed by judicial or state censorship tools). Hence the need for this systematic and prolonged study, which should think of journalism and the media in an extended span of time in such a way as to allow the examination in view of organizational (public or private) and business models, legal frameworks and technological changing patterns whose speed is accelerating more and more.

In short, the group deals with the fundamental concepts - what defines and differentiates journalism in relation to other professional activities in the vast field of social communication, such as advertising and public relations, among others - and the defining landmarks that identify journalism regarding its procedures, its methods, its speech, its unmistakable observation and its legitimacy as one of the fundamental institutions of democracy. Although the focus is directed to Brazil, the comparison between the Brazilian reality and the reality of countries whose democracies are taken as a reference is necessary and desirable.

Through research, critical readings, seminars and the production of texts, always keeping an exercise in cross-disciplinary character, the group includes both social ways of the press (its diverse practice), and applied ethics and journalistic canons that are consecrated as parameters of excellence in the profession (excellence founded on freedom, pluralism, critical view and independent investigation able to monitor power).

The group also seeks to consolidate a less vague understanding of the social function of informing society in the Brazilian academic culture in order to meet the fundamental right of citizens to information, highlighting the contours of the concepts of press and journalism in their individuality rather than diluting them with other existing activities in social communication.

The scope also includes the analysis of contemporary concrete cases of journalistic ethics and ontology, and their tensions and complementarities with the imperatives of economics, politics, law, culture, technology and the digital universe.

In terms of academic routines, the group holds monthly meetings for the reading of theoretical work and ongoing research, and organizes scientific events and publications related to journalism and areas related to it, such as law, sociology, political science, philosophy, literature and arts.

As a way of acting in the areas of education, dissemination and transfer of knowledge, the group aims at collaborating with the training of researchers in the levels of Scientific Initiation, Master, Doctorate and Post-Doctorate. At the same time, it promotes a digital channel for science communication and interaction with external stakeholders, organizes workshops, seminars and partnerships with other researchers and professionals, and acts to in-depth knowledge of the principles, the systematic critique of laws, interpretation and improvement of codes of ethics, writing manuals and other rules of self-regulation in journalism.