This article was edited by SPRITE+ Research Associate Dmitry Dereshev, with responses and edits from Reader in International Media Law Irini Katsirea.
The spotlight today is on Irini Katsirea – Reader in International Media Law at the University of Sheffield, and a SPRITE+ member. Some of Irini's latest publications include:
How would you describe your job to a 12-year-old?
I am interested in the ways in which social media, broadcasting and the press are regulated.
What are the rules and procedures in place to ensure that the public gets all the information they need to be well-informed, without being exposed to material that is illegal or harmful? And how can this be ensured without unduly restricting everybody’s right to freedom of expression?
Could you describe what you do during a typical workday?
Every day is quite unique. This is both the attraction and the challenge of an academic role. The favourite parts of my workday involve researching, writing and discussing with my students issues related to media law/regulation and freedom of expression. I teach an undergraduate and a postgraduate cohort of journalism students about media freedom and freedom of expression from a comparative perspective. It is very rewarding to challenge them with current problems, and to hear their often very astute observations.
Could you describe a challenging project that you’ve recently worked on?
I am currently working on a research monograph about ‘Press freedom and regulation in a digital era’. I am trying to understand how the transformations taking place in the digital age impact the compartmentalized and fragmented system of media regulation. This is challenging as it involves gaining insights from a number of disciplines, and following fast-paced developments in different jurisdictions.
What training/experience did you have at the start of your career?
I completed my undergraduate studies in law at the University of Berlin. This gave me a solid grounding in German and European law after endless but interesting hours of study and an onerous exam at the end. I continued my legal training in the UK where I completed Master of Laws (LLM) at the University of Leicester. My PhD, at Magdalene College, Cambridge started off as one concerned with the EU impact on national sovereignty in the areas of education and culture, and it was my supervisor, Professor Alan Dashwood, who first suggested that I should also look at the area of broadcasting. I am forever indebted to him for his advice as this is the topic that I became fascinated with and have worked on ever since.
How did you get into your current role?
I started my academic career at the Law department of Middlesex University. Given that my research has always been in the areas of EU and comparative media law, the transition to my current role, at the department of Journalism Studies at the University of Sheffield has been smooth. The move to another discipline has been intriguing as it enabled me to look at matters close to my research interests from a different perspective.
What do you wish you'd known when you started your career?
I had a romanticized image of academia in my mind when I started my career, thinking that it was an ivory tower, allowing you to endlessly indulge in your research interests and in academic exchange. However, even if I had known that the reality is competitive, pressurized and increasingly industry-like, I would not have opted for another career.
What would you recommend to people who want to follow in your footsteps?
I would recommend that they are not deterred by the rejections and failures that they will inevitably be confronted with, and that they should always persevere and preserve a space for intellectual curiosity and endeavour. Also, they should face academic criticism with an open mind and humility as a step towards achieving something better.
What troubles did you have progressing through your career?
I have found the process of job interviews rather daunting and disheartening when they did not go well. The academic peer review process with its ups and down is a constant learning curve, but there is usually a light at the end of the tunnel.
How would you describe your research or business interest in relation to SPRITE+?
I was attracted to SPRITE+ as I have always been interested to find out how colleagues from other disciplines, and in particular scientists, view the problems raised by the information society, and to find out what solutions they can come up with.
How do you hope to benefit from working with SPRITE+ network?
The SPRITE+ network offers opportunities to meet academic colleagues, practitioners and stakeholders who share an interest in the digital economy from a multitude of perspectives. The pandemic has cut short our possibilities to meet in person, but SPRITE+ offers valuable possibilities for interdisciplinary networking online.
Which of the SPRITE+ Challenge Themes can you relate to from the job that you do? How does it impact your role?
The Digital Vulnerabilities Theme is probably the one closest to my research interests. I am particularly interested in the ways in which online platforms recommend content, both news content and political advertising, and target users, thus influencing their possibilities of democratic participation. I am also interested in the ways in which online platforms moderate speech online, and in the safeguards that should be created to ensure that this process takes place with due regard for fundamental rights.
Call for Events is now open! We're supporting Members and Expert Fellows to lead activities that explore aspects of TIPS in the Digital Economy. We will help to organise the activity with up to £5,000 to cover the associated costs.