We caught up with Laura McCartan, who recently joined Media Defence as our Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning Officer. She talks about what inspired her to join the organisation, and what she’s looking forward to in her role.
Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I’m Laura McCartan, and I’ve been working at Media Defence for three weeks now! Before joining I worked for an organisation that specialised in gender-based violence for minoritized communities. I also worked for a search and rescue team on the island of Lesvos. Before that, I worked in Uganda, Nepal and Sri Lanka on different issues relating to human rights.
What’s your role at Media Defence?
I work as the Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning Officer. This is a really interesting role, trying to understand the impact of Media Defence’s work, and how we can learn from it and improve it in the future. It can be complicated to understand the exact effect of a court case, when there are so many other pressures in the same environment. For me, though, I see it as an exciting challenge to look at new ways to assess this.
What are you most looking forward to in your role?
I am excited to see how the cases the legal team are working on progress. As well as this, I enjoy working with different people, so the opportunity to speak to journalists and learn about their cases is exciting. Having worked with a lot of NGOs I really like looking at what you can learn and how you can keep adapting to changing environments, whether that is new laws – or a pandemic.
What attracted you to Media Defence?
I studied International Human Rights Law as my masters in 2015 and have always found it fascinating. With a background in working for NGOs, I see law as the best way to challenge systemic inequality and safeguard human rights. During my time in Greece, I worked with journalists covering the arrival of boats to Europe. I saw first hand the violent response to their work, including journalists being beaten and harassed. Considering the importance of the message they were trying to share, this was hard to watch or understand. So it’s nice to see the other side and know that there are organisations working to protect press freedom.
Why is freedom of expression important to you?
When you look at some of the biggest movements of the past few years, they have been so reliant on access to information. From George Floyd to Aylan Kurdi, the ability to access information affects our behaviour and can spark real movements for change. I think it’s an important way to have a dialogue with governments who might not want to listen, or who don’t represent their citizens.
What cases or projects have inspired you?
The case of FAJ and others v The Gambia is really interesting to me. I have several friends who are journalists from The Gambia, who were affected by similar violence from the state. Working with them at a community newspaper, I can see how legal judgements might seem inaccessible to affected communities. Actually, though, they play a role in creating justice and increasing state accountability.
We’re really excited to welcome Laura McCartan to the team, and thank her for taking the time to be interviewed.
If you are also inspired by our work, take a look at how you can get involved here.
If you are a journalist or lawyer in need of support, please click here.
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