Nobel Laureates, worldwide organisations and brave voices meet at the World Expression Forum in Lillehammer on 30 and 31 May.  The program is ready.

“When the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression, Irene Khan, begins the conference, her review of the world situation will show that the need is more significant than ever for a forum for a broad study of the challenges of free speech,” says CEO Kristenn Einarsson. “Through lectures from the world’s most important voices, panel discussions and workshops, we will discuss how the challenges are best met”.

Confronting propaganda and oppression

The current situation in Europe is making its mark at this year’s congress.

“The tragedy currently unfolding in Ukraine is a reminder of how important freedom of expression is,” says program committee and board member Aage Borchgrevink. “Political propaganda, repression and the unchecked militarisation of society have resulted in the barbarism we have seen in Bucha and Mariupol. The war must be stopped; there must be accountability. At the first World Conference, we want to confront this issue head-on”.

Russians, Ukrainians and Belarusians have been invited to the congress.

“To lead the conversation, we have invited Oleksandra Matviychuk and Svitlana Valko, both prominent Ukrainian activists, as well as the Russian Nobel Peace Prize laureate Dmitry Muratov, and some of the most important actors from civil society currently documenting war crimes and debunking falsehoods, such as Agnes Callamard of Amnesty International and Christo Grozev of Bellingcat”.

Fake news and increased polarisation

The relationship between freedom of speech and technology will also be important. Felicia Anthonio from Access Now will show that restriction on access to the internet is a tool that is used by many regimes. Professor Vincent Pickard reviews regulatory options while vice-president of the European Commission, Věra Jourová, talks about the EU’s work.

“More freedom of expression is made possible through new technology, but the same technology can also contribute to spreading fake news and increased polarisation. The last few weeks have fully demonstrated the dilemmas we face in a technological age where everyone can be their own publicist. The traditional media has lost ground as a news media outlet in many parts of the world. This will be one of WEXFO’s most exciting topics, highlighted by some of the foremost voices in the field,” says Veslemøy Østrem, a member of the programme committee.

In two final sessions on Tuesday 31 May, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Maria Ressa, Helle Thorning-Schmidt, Meta Oversight Board and former Danish Prime Minister and Anette Trettebergstuen, Norwegian Minister of Culture and Equality, meet in conversation with Kadafi Zaman, journalist at TV2.  Ressa criticised Facebook and social media in her Nobel speech.

Sports and freedom of expression

The forum’s Spotlight series highlights topics and the situation around the world. Norwegian Football President, Lise Klaveness, will talk about sports and freedom of expression. Klaveness got international attention after delivering a stinging speach at FIFAs 72nd annual congress, demanding that FIFA do more to defend its principles of human rights.

More than 200 people will gather in Lillehammer during the days of 30 and 31 May, in addition to the many who will follow the conference digitally.