Seven highlights from Trust Conference 2019

by Dara Cormican
Friday, 29 November 2019 10:39 GMT

Ahmad Nawaz at Trust Conference 2019 speaking about his deradicalisation work with young people. THOMSON REUTERS FOUNDATION. London / November 2019.

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From the need to create more inclusive economies, to protecting media freedom, the complexity of preserving privacy in a digital age and the entangled relationship between fake news, elections and democracy, Trust Conference 2019 addressed some of the most urgent and relevant human rights issues of our time, whilst showcasing the wider range of the Thomson Reuters Foundation’s work under new CEO, Antonio Zappulla.

Held over two days in the heart of London, the annual Trust Conference convened 600 people from all over the world, including global experts, frontline activists as well as giants of business, technology and philanthropy. In addition to panel discussions provoking heated debate, ‘Innovation Spotlights’ displayed cutting-edge solutions to some of the most pressing human rights violations and ‘Stories from the Frontline’ brought the experiences and insights of human rights defenders and leading experts to the audience. With Trust Conference trending on Twitter, it also fuelled animated discussions on social media, engaging audiences all over the globe.

Antonio Zappulla, CEO of Thomson Reuters Foundation, opens Trust Conference 2019.

Whether you want to re-live Trust Conference again, or learn about it for the first time, check out seven highlights from this year’s forum:

1. Delegates heard from those turning lived experiences into powerful activism

Ahmad Nawaz lost his brother and was severely injured in a Taliban attack on his school in Pakistan at the age of 14. Uyghur-American Ferkat Jawdat left his native Xinjiang 13 years ago in search of a better life in the United States, unaware that he would not see his mother again or that she would spend more 15 months in a Chinese ‘re-education’ camp. GeumHyok Kim made the heart-breaking decision to leave his family and native North Korea behind to live a life where free speech and thought are not punishable by death. All three of these inspirational individuals shared their journeys from trauma to activism with a gripped audience on both days of Trust Conference. 

2. Cutting-edge innovations to human rights issues were showcased

From using 3D mapping technology to analyse photos and videos to create accountability for human rights abuses, to training survivors of human trafficking to become Silicon Valley coders, solutions to many of the issues addressed throughout Trust Conference were brought to life across the two days.

3. Global icons shared their vision for an economic system that leaves no one behind  

Tina Tchen, President and CEO of TIME’S UP, told us that gender equity is the building block of fairer economies, with countries that fail to educate girls at the same rate as boys potentially losing up to 1 billion dollars of GDP a year.

Writer and disability campaigner Sinéad Burke said inclusivity was "about more than asking the 1% to give their income to restructure the system - it's about burning that system down and building a new one.”

President and CEO of TIME'S UP, Tina Tchen, spoke of how gender equity is integral to building fairer economies.

4. Tech giants answered tough questions on digital disinformation  

With the UK general election around the corner and Twitter announcing its ban on political advertising, the scene was set for a fascinating debate between Richard Allan, Vice President of Policy Solutions at Facebook, Madhav Chinnappa, Director of Google’s News Ecosystem Developmentand Jenni Sargent, Managing Director of First Draft - an organisation working to address relating to truth in the digital age.

Questions including when does political propaganda turn into deliberate disinformation, and whose responsibility it is to distinguish the real from the fake, were grappled with in what is seen to be one of the most complex modern-day human rights issues.

5. The Trust Conference Changemakers took to the stage for the first time

Six of our 56 Changemakers, selected from more than 5,000 applicants from all over the world, were invited on stage with Senior Reporter at TIME, Suyin Haynes, to share their insights into working on the front lines of human rights and what being a Trust Conference Changemaker has meant to them. 

6. Titans of journalism discussed challenges of telling the truth in a post-truth era

With the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism’s Digital News report highlighting that 70% of people in the UK - with the number rising up to 80% in Brazil - are worried about the ability to distinguish real from fabricated news online, the challenge of operating a media organisation in a post-truth environment is one known all too well by Dean Baquet, Executive Editor of The New York Times, and Stephen Adler, Reuters Editor-in-Chief.

So what can be done? Adler called for media literacy training for young people to ensure they can be “better judges of what to value and what not to”, with Baquet stressing the importance of “relentlessly pursuing the facts and making them available in every form people want to consume them.”

7. And journalists spoke from personal experience about how media freedom is under attack 

Maria Ressa, Jason Rezaian, Matthew Caruana Galizia and Natalia Morari have personally suffered, and continue to suffer, for reporting the truth. Rezaian spoke about how he was imprisoned in Iran for 544 days whilst heading The Washington Post Tehran bureau, with Ressa touching upon the multiple lawsuits she is facing for her investigative journalism in the Philippines. The risks these journalists take to bring us the truth was highlighted by Morari when she recited the harrowing threats she has received for TV8’s reporting on corruption in Moldova, with Caruana Galizia bravely addressing his family’s continued fight for justice for his mother, Daphne Caruana Galizia, a journalist who was assassinated using a car bomb in Malta in 2017. A two-minute standing ovation was a fitting end to a panel that will go down in Trust Conference history.

Jim Smith, Thomson Reuters CEO, also reiterated the importance of “truth, integrity and the freedom of expression”, referencing Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo’s imprisonment for reporting on the treatment of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar.

Members of the press share stories of serious retaliation against exercising the right to freedom of speech.

To watch the videos of all the Trust Conference sessions subscribe to our Youtube channel, where we’ll be uploading content in the coming weeks and months.

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