Process of renewing the principles, development and pathways to implementation

The process was initiated in May 2021 when the GFMD responded to a request from the Media Freedom Coalition (MFC). In partnership with the Centre for International Media Assistance (CIMA), the GFMD subsequently produced a two-page briefing on ways the MFC could work with members to improve media assistance, ODA data, and information sharing.

In November 2021, a first draft of the concept note, developed by CIMA and the GFMD IMPACT help desk, was discussed at the Media Freedom Coalition’s Working Group on Media Development.

This was followed by a webinar on Dec. 7, 2021, which focused on the principles for media development and was one of over 40 events held as a part of the Global Democracy Coalition Forum. Following this webinar, on Jan. 27th, 2021, an invitation-only virtual roundtable conversation was held to discuss the principles for effective media assistance and was attended by 18 representatives of national and regional media development organisations.

Read more about the process here.

Find the roadmap for principles development here.

“I truly believe that the process as such, of developing these principles on effective support to journalism and media development, including consultations like this one, and the previous ones, that they could in and by themselves contribute to these changes, because now there is an arena where this can be discussed. There are several arenas compared to some years ago, when there was a lot of silence in international fora.” -Donor Representative.

Building upon prior efforts and existing guidelines

Different speakers highlighted that while the current work being conducted to develop a renewed set of principles is timely, there exist previous efforts and guidelines that must be referenced to in defining the principles.

Some mentioned during the meeting include:



In addition to freedom, pluralism, independence, Windhoek +30 declaration recognised three additional principles: media viability, transparency of internet companies, and media and information literacy. This recognition provides a holistic approach to media development, establishing the interdependence between freedom and viability where the space for media is shrinking, and that viability must be prioritised.

One of the participants explained that UNESCO’s definition of media development integrates, as inherent in the core of media development, the principles of media freedom, media pluralism, and media independence.

UNESCO’s Media Development Indicators adopted this democratic definition of media development and they follow this perspective, which assess freedom, pluralism, and independence in the media sector. UNESCO’s Indicators are internationally endorsed standards that are benchmarks for research, and evidence based reforms.

OECD DAC legal and policy instruments for implementing principles for effective media development

Once finalised, principles of effective media development can be adopted via various DAC legal and policy instruments including:

First level- reports, publications, principles, guidelines and best practices

  • 2013 principles on media development belong to this category

  • No accountability mechanism - no reporting from the states required

Stronger level- a declaration by the DAC

  • Limited to DAC members only

A recent example is the declaration of climate change that was prepared ahead of the recent (Conference of PArties COP) meeting.

Highest level- a recommendation

  • There exists an accountability mechanism that requires reporting from states – this ensures members are more careful in endorsing a recommendation.

  • It can include the principles but, ultimately it aims at effectively changing the action and programming of donors and behavioural change.

  • It is not limited to DAC members - external actors can adhere to it. The adoption requires concentrated lobbying efforts of members and external actors.

  • Evidence is required for the effectiveness to demonstrate that the support for media can make a significant difference.

  • There are competing priorities (climate, Covid recovery, gender for example).

  • If pursued, it would be framed within larger development objectives.

  • Recent successfully adopted recommendations entailed concerted effort from civil society organisations and members.

Examples of recommendations are Humanitarian Development Peace Nexus Recommendation and Recommendation on Sexual Exploitation and Abuse and Development Cooperation.

A donor representative observed that the DAC recommendation is the strongest standard-setting tool and has a strong scrutiny to the text. This approach will involve peer reviews and potentially require compromises on the text, while other formats are less accountable and work more on the technical level, focusing on applied practice and shared learning.

“The stronger the instrument is the more institutional convincing and a longer institutional process has to be expected,” - Donor Representative

According to this donor representative, these are different tools and the selection of the appropriate one for the implementation of the principle depends on the purpose – whether it is creating common understanding, better knowledge and practise or whether it is about higher commitment.

Donors also cautioned to consider what will happen with these instruments within donor agencies, how much commitment they will need, and whether agencies are in danger of becoming a bureaucratic exercise. A media policy advisor also suggested that principles and operational approaches could also be shared and would benefit new donors, both private and public, who are entering the space, and may not have as much experience in the media development field. The advisor noted that all of these organisations expressed the need for a more rigorous practice, evidence based approaches, and a process for capturing the data and the knowledge that has been generated through media development work.

The Council of Europe

In addition, as seen within the Council of Europe, it was mentioned that such processes take time, and involve a variety of stakeholders, noting that initiatives for policy action often come from civil society, non governmental partner organisations, and that policy options are elaborated on in multi-stakeholder expert groups.

This work is guided by the CoE Intergovernmental Committee. The steering committees are made of high-ranking officials from national administrations who provide links between expertise and national political priorities. Once the texts are agreed upon, they are submitted to the Committee of Ministers, which is the statutory body for adoption.

The policies have evolved and the states are reminded that as guarantors of media pluralism, they have an obligation to ensure a diverse media offering and should ensure the financial sustainability of journalism.

Participating donors and intergovernmental organisation representatives offered advice based on the previous work that would be applicable in the development of principles and potential mechanisms of implementation of principles:

  • Governments should be involved since they are responsible and hold accountability to international mechanisms for ensuring an alignment with the international standards on freedom, pluralism, and independence.

  • One intergovernmental organisation representative emphasised that the standard setting on media, especially the support to media, relies on the state's own commitments and it is important that member states are willing to make and honour such commitments.

  • There exists a need for democracy support and media systems to be context-sensitive in order to be effective – a requirement that may be difficult to incorporate well.

  • Recommendation - to collect the good practices by states and work towards replicating them in other states.

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