‘No European democracy can exist without the robust articulation of European public opinion.’
10 Feb 2022
In a series of interviews we portray our Culture of Solidarity Fund grantees. The grantee featured here successfully applied to round 4: Culture of Solidarity in times of an infodemic.
Established in 2014, Voxeurop is a team of 30 journalists based across Europe, reporting unique experiences on European affairs and beyond. They address topics including climate change, migration, the health crisis, deepening inequality, the erosion of democratic principles and press freedom – always from a point of shared European values.
In this age of social media, fake news and echo chambers, a European sense of integrity and inclusivity are threatened by the return of extremism, nationalist withdrawal, the rise of populism and xenophobia. More than ever, it is vital that European citizens have access to media that is independent, reliable, and capable of decoding the larger, shared challenges. The dissemination of debates, ideas, information and knowledge in a healthy environment is essential. To this end, Voxeurop offers its audience analyses, feature and photo stories, and investigations, by giving the floor to writers, thinkers and civil society actors. The longer form articles appear in five languages: English, French, German, Italian and Spanish.
Voxeurop believes that civil society must have a prominent role in producing content to engender trans-national journalism based on solidarity, inclusivity, fraternity and collaboration. Hence, audiences are encouraged to participate in debates on their platform. Their manifesto states: ‘No European democracy can exist without the robust articulation of European public opinion.’
Under the leadership of Voxeurop, the project ‘ECHO’ fosters a multilingual space where media outlets publish a series of editorials, translated across up to eight languages and accompanied by a multilingual online forum for citizens debate, alongside multilingual online events.
To effectively facilitate cross-border journalism without relying on the hegemony of the English language, ECHO produces a space where multiple European languages can coexist and where interaction between audiences across languages across language barriers is enabled through an open-source digital translation tool. Thus, local stories meet a European audience.
Accompanying Voxeurop and its established network, nine European media outlets and organisations participate in this call: The BIJ (UK), IRPI (IT) , Eastern European Left Media Outlet (CEE), Deník Referendum (CZ) , Guiti News (FR), Atlatszo Erdely Egyesulet (RO), Althertess (GR), Guerrilla Media Collective (ES), and Investigace (CZ) .
We have interviewed publication director Paul Salvanès regarding Voxeurop and ECHO.
Why is it relevant to produce a space for cross-border journalism? What are the implications of it for Europe at large?
The major challenges we face today are, in fact, cross-border. The climate crisis, economic and social shocks, the rise of populism, migration, criminal networks, etc. And beyond the crises, social aspirations and ideas also transcend linguistic and national barriers. This is not a new phenomenon. What is new is the speed with which information is disseminated, the immediacy with which all European peoples can be confronted, at the same time, with similar challenges or questions. This creates proximity and solidarity, and reinforces the need to understand what is happening on the other side of the border, in order to draw inspiration from it or to guard ourselves against it. In addition, for EU member states, the democratic functioning of the European institutions has a vital need for informed citizens who are actors in their common destiny.
Unfortunately, most of the continent’s major national media are struggling to reach beyond their traditional boundaries. There are several reasons, one of them is linked to the crisis of their business models. These same media outlets are now cutting back on foreign correspondent positions! That’s why, paradoxically, there is a twofold deficit in cross-border information: its quality, and the diversity of sources available to Europeans.
The good news is that the digital revolution is opening up new opportunities. More and more Europeans are getting their information online, which reduces distribution constraints, and new technologies, such as automatic translation, are making spectacular progress. There is also an increasing amount of funding for cross-border journalism. In these respects, then, such journalism is much more possible today than it was in the past, and we should move forward with optimism.
What is the long-term impact that the project aims to engender?
The project supported by the European Cultural Foundation is in line with our desire to create a link of proximity between our journalists, readers and editorial partners.
The creation of a multilingual discussion forum will allow our readers to comment on articles and translate others’ comments into their own language, thanks to on-demand automatic translation. For many European citizens, language indeed is a barrier, and the vast majority of them prefer reading and expressing themselves in their mother tongue anyway. The aim of this tool is therefore not only to open up the debate to as many citizens as possible, but also to create a real forum for cross-border discussion. There are still too few places, even digital ones, where Europeans can debate with each other, and this hampers the feeling of proximity.
The second aspect of this project is the development of a platform for the organisation of online events bringing together our readers and the authors of the articles published by Voxeurop. At a time when journalism is undergoing a crisis of confidence, it is vital to make such direct exchanges possible, for readers to ask their questions directly to journalists, to understand their work, the making of, but also the doubts and difficulties experienced by those whose mission is to inform them.
These two technical solutions are not developed for the sole benefit of Voxeurop. The support of the European Cultural Foundation also allows us to strengthen our editorial partnerships with media across Europe. Whether through existing networks, such as EDJNet or Eurozine, or through bilateral partnerships, we translate and republish articles from a wide range of partners, in order to broaden their impact and audience. Our readers will be able to comment and discuss the articles of our partners, and meet their journalists during online events that we will organise with them.
What are your plans for the online events?
Since the first lockdown we have organised a monthly online event with one or two journalists who have written articles for Voxeurop. This is an opportunity to dig into their work, to deepen or broaden the subject, and to encourage a direct debate with our readers. It is always a real pleasure to see this European public space materialise before our eyes when we see people connecting from fifteen different countries for the same event!
With the support of the European Cultural Foundation, we have developed an interface on our website that helps our readers to find information about those events and to register. These developments have also allowed us to highlight upcoming events on our pages, as well as promoting replays that are published a few weeks later.
These events are for now mainly in English, for budget reasons, but our long-term goal is to be able to provide interpretation in several languages, in order to further expand our audience.
Our ambition in the long-term is to organise more of these meetings with our readers, for each of our significant editorial projects, and to propose through these events more video formats available on replay, on our website and on the different social media platforms we use.
And finally, tell us about something that inspires you…
I am lucky enough to be in daily contact with European journalists and publishers. Everywhere in Europe, from Greece to the Czech Republic, in Belarus and in France, many editorial projects are being launched today, in order to answer a real need for independent and quality information, or to bring innovation in terms of investigation, data journalism or the relationship with readers. Their passion to inform, despite often difficult material conditions for freelancers, despite sometimes repressive political contexts for the media, is a source of inspiration and hope.
It is essential today that these projects find the time and resources to connect with each other, to reinforce each other and increase their impact. This is what we are trying to do by networking our partners, or by syndicating each other’s contents via translation. The current trend towards consortia journalism, with flagships such as ICIJ or OCCRP, is very good news for cross-border journalism and should be confirmed.
Granted: 39663 euros