Principles for effective mediadev (Dec. '21)

Meeting report from a GFMD/CIMA webinar on 7 December 2021 that provided recommendations to the Biden administration's Summit for Democracy, which was held from 9-10 December 2021.

This meeting report was also published on the GFMD website.

The crisis in independent media now jeopardizes progress in virtually every aspect of human development. A well-functioning independent media system is critical to sustainable social and economic development – a bulwark of peaceful, economically prosperous societies. But the alarmingly fast-growing crisis in the independent media sector made international donors and funders, key implementing agencies, and local civil society organisations ask a question:

At the Summit for Democracy hosted by the Biden administration on 9 and 10 December, the United States and others committed to increasing support for at-risk new outlets, protecting media freedom and freedom of expression as pre-conditions for democracy and human rights. But what are the key principles that need to be in place to guide donors and funders in their implementation of these, and existing commitments, to protecting freedom of media and supporting independent journalism?

Looking for the answers to this question, the Global Forum for Media Development (GFMD) and the Center for International Media Assistance (CIMA) co-hosted a webinar to discuss the need to strengthen and reinforce effective international support to the media sector through a process for updating and codifying guiding principles.

Recommendations to the Summit for Democracy

The GFMD/CIMA webinar on principles for media development was one of over 40 events held on 7 December as part of the Global Democracy Coalition Forum, a virtual 24-hour event convened to provide recommendations to the Summit for Democracy.

The three recommendations from the GFMD/CIMA webinar on media development were:

  1. The Summit for Democracy and year of action that will follow should bolster international commitment to principles for effective support to media development, including protecting media freedom and freedom of expression as pre-conditions for democracy and human rights. Establishing and implementing such principles will be critical to achieving the aims of the Windhoek +30 declaration, Joint Declaration on Challenges to Freedom of Expression in the Next Decade, The International Declaration on Information and Democracy, and the Global Pledge on Media Freedom.

  2. The international community should seek to integrate support for independent media into international cooperation for development and good governance, recognizing that Agenda 2030 and democratic progress will depend upon a concerted and collaborative response to the fundamental and structural crisis affecting the media sector.

  3. The international community must commit to supporting a vision for media development that upholds core principles of aid effectiveness. This means supporting media development processes that are locally owned, locally driven, and produce long-term and sustainable changes in the political environment for the media.

Why is it important to restate the principles for effective support to media development?

This question is answered in detail in the draft concept note that GFMD and CIMA developed and shared ahead of the meeting. The draft concept note is open for comments and suggestions. You can access it here.

Nick Benequista, Senior Director at CIMA, explained that the statement of principles are:

  • Important now, as political will surges, to ensure that we are engaging in a way to ensure that political will translates into effective meaningful action on the ground

  • A method of distilling the received knowledge and a tool for promoting greater assistance to the field and for structuring that assistance.

  • An opportunity to get the political will that we need for greater support for the media sector.

  • A method of organising and developing a coherent agenda among civil society organisations, as well as local, regional, and international actors.

Building on the momentum from the adoption of the Windhoek +30 declaration

Guilherme Canela De Souza Godoi, Chief of Freedom of Expression and Safety of Journalists Section at UNESCO spoke about how the media development community has an opportunity to build on the momentum from the adoption of the WINDHOEK +30 Declaration on Information as a Public Good, which was adopted unanimously by member states last month.

The original Windhoek declaration laid the foundations for some major achievements in improving the enabling environment for free, independent and pluralistic media. However, as we plan on how to maximise the potential around realising the declaration commitment from member states to recognise and support journalism as a public good, we need to learn from missed opportunities.

“For many years, the media development community was completely disconnected from the internet governance community, and vice versa. And we are paying the bill for this mistake because we haven’t integrated the challenges of the internet correctly in the discussion of media development.” – Guilherme Canela De Souza Godoi, Chief of Freedom of Expression and Safety of Journalists Section at UNESCO.

The media development community are making progress in this regard, for example through the Dynamic Coalition on the Sustainability of Journalism and News Media (DC-Sustainability) which is an official Dynamic Coalition of the Internet Governance Forum. On 9 December, DC Sustainability hosted a session at IGF 2021 in Katowice, Poland. Read our report on the event here. Sign up for the official mailing list for the Dynamic Coalition on the Sustainability of Journalism and News Media here.

How could principles be used and adopted by the international supporters of media development?

Justin Williams, Governance Adviser, Freedom of Expression and Media Development at Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office told the webinar that:

In the run-up to the Media Freedom Conference in Estonia GFMD and CIMA will host a series of consultations with donors, implementers, and national/regional media development organisations to develop a set of general principles. GFMD and CIMA will host a meeting at the conference to discuss the principles and to encourage states to consider making an official request for the OECD DAC’s Secretariat to pursue principles and recommendations for the media sector.

As well as aiming to have these principles recognised and adopted by the OECD, considering the obstacles to effective media development are often political as well as financial, states from the Global South should be engaged in this initiative at an early stage via the UNESCO’s IPDC, the Special rapporteur of Freedom of Expression, Development Banks, and regional bodies.

In brief – What could these principles include?

Four representatives from regional and national media development actors shared their ideas on what principles for effective media development are most important to them.

Ayman Mhanna, Executive Director of Skeyes:

  • Needs-based, demand-driven, beneficiary-led, consultative approaches to program and project design that is rooted in local challenges and capacities and has local ownership.

  • Align media development support with broader international engagement.

Marija Ristic, Regional Director of the Balkan Investigative Journalism Network (BIRN):

  • Focus on the causes and obstacles of effective media development (especially when it comes to issues around media markets, business models and sustainability), not just the consequences.

  • Set goals that are contextualised and realistic based on the length of the project.

  • Flexibility within grants and funding is essential to allow media development actors to adapt to rapidly changing media environments.

Sulemana Braimah, Executive Director of West African Media Foundation:

  • “We should be looking at support that is long term, support that is flexible, support that is equitable – and by equitable I’m talking about North-South divide -, support that is demand-driven, and beneficiary-lead.”

  • Funding aimed at achieving good governance or other development aims should not instrumentalise and undermine the independence of journalism. Independent media should be seen as a pillar of democracy and accountability in its own right.

Zoe Titus, Director of Namibia Media Trust & chair of GFMD:

  • There is not sufficient emphasis on media freedom, freedom of expression, and how that is articulated and measured within existing good governance indicators.

  • Better data sharing among media development practitioners and donors.

  • Acknowledgement that the media is a sector with its own legitimate development needs that are central to the enjoyment and strengthening of democracy.

You can watch the full discussion here.

More information on GFMD's work on renewing the Principles for Effective Media Development is available here.

Last updated