Recent controversies regarding the politicization of television news, delegitimizing of the media, censorship and the manipulation of public opinion via social media have rocked the traditional model of journalism. Considering the increasing relevance and ubiquity of these issues, what more appropriate a time for upwards of 700 media experts to gather at the Perugia International Journalism Festival (IJF) from the 3rd-7th of April to discuss the current state of the media and the field of journalism.
IJF is orchestrated annually by an international team of media experts. It is not affiliated with any specific media companies. It was founded in 2006 by current IJF directors Arianna Ciccone, a contributor to the news blog ValigiaBlu and Christopher Potter, a media production expert. The festival itself consists of hundreds of informational sessions held by speakers throughout each day. The yearly number of speakers and sessions has grown substantially since IJF’s conception, with the 2018 event featuring 306 sessions and 760 different speakers.
These sessions are given primarily in English and Italian, with some sessions offering simultaneous translation from Italian to English and vice versa. Sessions using simultaneous translation are indicated as such on the program calendar. For those who are unable to attend in person, each panel is live-streamed on the IJF website at the time of the event.
These sessions focus on a fascinating array of topics, from neo-fascist movements in Italy to the rising ubiquity of social media news. Some of this year’s sessions will center around the global surge of the #metoo movement, the media under attack, and youth activism.
In regards to the #metoo movement around the world, IJF will feature a panel on #metoo in the global south, in partnership with the International Center for Journalists, discussing the ever-present threat against women who speak out against male-abusers in oppressive, patriarchal societies. The forum on discrimination against the media will discuss the repression of journalists in Viktor Orbán’s Hungary, how state-sponsored internet trolls influence media discrimination, and how to combat media censorship. The panel on youth activism will be a conversation on how adolescents enact political movements, and how this can be achieved on a global scale.
Typically, speakers are well-established reporters, editors, media consultants, or professors. Speakers are either nominated, invited by the festival organizers or asked to apply through an online form on the website. Among this year’s speakers are Olivia Ma, the director of Google News Lab, Jaclyn Corin, a co-founder of March for our Lives and survivor of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school shooting, Anwar al-Bunni, a Syrian civil rights lawyer and Samantha Cristoforetti, an Italian astronaut who recently spent 200 days in space. This event is open to the public.
“The festival is an open invitation to interact with the best of world journalism,” Potter said.
Organizers pride themselves on the accessibility of IJF. The event is free to the public with no required fees or pre-registration. The availability of seating for each session is “first come first serve.” As for lodging, IJF officials cited various hotels in or near Perugia and advised that participants book accommodation early. IJF volunteers are provided with free lodging in a youth-hostel in Perugia’s city-center.
Each year, IJF welcomes hundreds of young volunteers from across the globe. The volunteer application is open to everyone and applicants are selected with consideration for their skills and prior experience. Because the event is funded through donations, volunteers play a vital role in its organization.
In 2014, lacking funds for the previous year’s festival, Ciccone and Potter initiated a “crowdfunding” campaign, making this year's festival budget completely funded by sponsorships. 2018 festival sponsors included Amazon, Google, and Facebook.
The high-profile and prestige of its hundreds of speakers paired with its free access to the public make IJF unlike any conference of its kind.
“Where else can you take part in such a big, vibrant, stimulating and in some ways improbable event, a mad mix of the well-known and the unknown, of stars and students, of journalists and non-journalists?” IJF founders said.