World Journalists Conference 2021: Post-Covid era, climate change and the role of journalism

Last year around this time, the world had shut down, and governments, citizens, medical professionals and the media were all scrambling to make sense of this new world order. Fast forward to April 2021, we have come quite far and yet it feels like the time has stood still.

The world is still trying to make sense of itself as the people slowly adjust to a life governed by the restrictions of a global pandemic. However, now with the arrival of Covid vaccines, we can, at the very least, imagine the post-Covid era.

In a follow-up from last year, Journalists Association of Korea (JAK) decided to hold World Journalists Conference (WJC) 2021 online again this year, on April 19 and 20, to address the vision of post-Covid times, climate change and the role of journalism in it.

In the Conference, which is now in its ninth year, over 60 journalists from over 50 countries convened online to speak and share their views on the aforementioned topics. The three-day conference began with an opening address by the host organization Journalists Association of Korea’s president Dong-Hoon Kim.

Kim welcomed all the journalists and noted how, despite the pandemic, WJC continues to be a platform to discuss the future of journalism. “I am proud to say that the conference is settling as one of the greatest events for journalists around the world,” Kim said.

Journalists Association of Korea President Mr. Kim Dong Hoon addressing the journalists at World Journalists Conference 2021.

He emphasized the fact that Korea remains the only divided nation on earth today and for seven years until 2019, World Journalists Conference provided the opportunity to journalists from around the world to visit the Korean Peninsula to “personally experience the reality of the divided nation and realize once again the importance of peace.”

The JAK President concluded by urging journalists to actively share their opinions and recommendations at the conference “so that we may all present dreams and hope to humanity and realize our calling as journalists as the conference is a precious opportunity even if held only online.”

South Korean Prime Minister Mr. Chung Sye-Kyun during his congratulatory speech at the World Journalists Conference 2021.

South Korean Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun, in his congratulatory message, lauded Journalists Association of Korea for establishing WJC as an important platform for world peace and journalism.

“Despite its relatively short history of nine years, the World Journalists Conference has been evaluated as an exemplary case of public diplomacy,” said Chung.

Talking about the importance of discussing the possibility of a post-Covid era, PM Chung said, “The pace of change has accelerated and its range has greatly expanded. Indeed, an era of great transformation with maximized uncertainty has dawned.”

He noted that when it comes to climate change, no single country can solve this problem by itself. “This problem can never be solved by the efforts of any single country alone. Based on solidarity and cooperation, all countries should put heads together across national borders in order to find solutions. In this regard, this conference, which is to seek the role of the media in addressing climate issues, is truly meaningful and valuable.”

Emphasizing the value of the Conference and why it was necessary for journalists from across the world to gather and discuss problems and their solutions, the S. Korean Prime Minister said, “As people’s thirst for the truth becomes more unquenchable, the value of journalism becomes even more invaluable. In this new world, I think the role of the media lies in the truth. I believe that when the media shed light on the world through truthful communication and balanced perspectives, its role as a mirror and window will truly shine.

On the first day of the conference, 26 speakers, ranging from Nigeria and Russia to Pakistan and Mexico, presented, discussed and debated the scheduled topic of ‘The Prospect of Post-Covid Era and the Role of Journalism’.

The second day of the conference was dedicated to the theme of ‘Global Climate Issues and the Role of Journalism’. 22 speakers from countries such as Pakistan, Afghanistan, Portugal, and Georgia discussed how their respective countries have been dealing, if at all, with the climate change and how their media is covering this global issue.

A special session was conducted on April 20 as well entitled “What We Learned about Science Journalism in the Year of Covid19”. Moderated by Jean Yoon, Professor at Korea University and Ewha Women’s University, School of Media and Communication, the session included a talk by the Director of the Knight Science Journalism program at MIT, Deborah Blum.

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