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Ulla Carlsson honored with the Swedish UNESCO Prize before the Global MIL Conference 2019 in Gothenburg

“The worst thing that can happen in a democracy is if its citizens lose faith or interest and feel they have no part in public affairs. That’s what makes the right to information and freedom of expression such a crucially important political issue.”

So says Ulla Carlsson, recipient of the 2019 Swedish UNESCO Prize.

Ulla Carlsson

Some 300 participants from all over the world gathered recently in Gothenburg for UNESCO’s ninth international conference on Media and Information Literacy (MIL). There, the 2019 prize was bestowed on Ulla Carlsson, keynote speaker at the conference, for the energy and commitment she has devoted to promoting freedom of expression and media and information literacy, in Sweden and in countries around the world.

“Without Ulla Carlsson and her work we would not be gathered here in Gothenburg today,” noted Martin Djurberg, Secretary-General of the Swedish National Commission for UNESCO, in his presentation speech. “It is thanks to her strong intellect, solid knowledge and, not least, her zeal that media and information literacy has assumed its prominence on the political agenda in Sweden. This is the first global conference on media and information literacy to be hosted in Sweden, and it is because of her work.”

50 years’ dedication

Ulla Carlsson has worked to advance issues relating to freedom of expression media and information ever since the 1970s.

“Back then, countries in the Third World were demanding a new, more equitable international information order (a NWICO, New World Information and Communication Order). The basic elements are still largely the same: Now, as then, it is about ensuring individuals’ freedom of expression and access to, and understanding of, media and information, so that they are able to take active part in social development and democracy,” she explains.

Nearly half lack access to internet

Ulla Carlsson's book

The emergence and evolution of digital media in the past few decades present many new challenges. Ulla Carlsson discusses these challenges in a recent book, Understanding Media and Information Literacy in the Digital Age. A Question of Democracy (JMG, University of Gothenburg, 2019).

“I address the book to all the dedicated individuals in our field, who I hope will find topics to reflect on and discuss. The challenges are complex and call for new approaches and new solutions. While we in many parts of the world are defending ourselves and our institutions against cyber-attacks, nearly half the people on the planet lack internet access, which means they are excluded from the digital media and commmunication system.”

UNESCO Professor

Ulla Carlsson has been UNESCO Professor of Freedom of Expression, Media Development and Global Politics, a chair placed in the Department of Journalism, Media and Communication (JMG), University of Gothenburg, since 2015. Before that she was Director of Nordicom for many years.

“The University of Gothenburg has a long tradition of scholarship on issues of democracy, and we are proud to have a UNESCO Professor among us,” said Eva WIberg, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Gothenburg, in her welcoming address to the conference participants.

Read more:

• The book, Understanding Media and Information Literacy in the Digital Age. A Question of Democracy, may be downloaded as a pdf at: