Why we research
Anybody can have an opinion. They are easy things to come up with, and in a world awash with comments across social media, talk is cheap. But that doesn’t mean every opinion is equally valid, or even founded on a solid basis of fact.
That is why, when one of our founders Peter Greste was offered a job with the University of Queensland as its “UNESCO Chair in Journalism and Communication”, we realized we had a unique opportunity. UQ is one of the world’s top academic institutions for research, so it made sense to develop a Memorandum of Understanding that would allow us to work closely together to study the kinds of issues we are concerned with.
Under the MoU, both UQ and the AJF remain completely independent. We, as an activist organization with a very explicit mandate to protect journalists’ freedom, need to maintain the freedom to advocate. But the university’s integrity and reputation depend on it being able to produce research that is genuinely independent of any particular interests, including ours. So, we have agreed to remain as autonomous institutions, while cooperating on the big questions we are both interested in.
The AJF’s strategy is to work with both leading industry figures and academics to develop the kinds of questions that researchers are able to study. Some will be long-term projects, monitoring the trends around media freedom over time. Others will be more focussed topics, perhaps looking at the effect of a particular piece of legislation on the work of the media.
Then, we will work out the best way to finance that work, whether it is through traditional research grants, or donations from benefactors, always making sure that we protect the independence and integrity of the research work its self.
Once the studies have been completed, we will use that work as the basis for our contributions to public debates, whether they are informal news releases and newspaper articles, or formal submissions to policy makers.
The point is to make sure we protect our credibility, our authority, and our independence so that whatever we say is taken seriously.