IMDA Newsletter – Fall 2017
Welcome to the latest newsletter from the International Media Development Advisers (IMDA), the final quarterly roundup of our partners’ activities in 2017.
Pressures on free media worldwide have become increasingly acute, with independent journalism under attack from populist authoritarians of the right and left. Impunity has become the rule rather than the exception for violent assaults on journalists. The changing economics of the news business has reduced resources for enterprising reporting and made media outlets more vulnerable to political and commercial interference.
At the same time, the impact and validity of media aid projects and related efforts to strengthen democratic institutions have been challenged by critics in donor and aid-recipient countries alike. Yet the need for effective assistance to independent media throughout the world has arguably never been greater.
Resources remain scarce, and much more should be done. But scores of programs around the world are making lasting contributions to media independence and professionalism and greatly improving public access to reliable news and other critical information, often in highly challenging environments. IMDA partners have played key roles in many such initiatives. Here’s a sampling of some recent projects:
Global Initiatives -
Building public trust: With an IMDA partner as a key collaborator, an international team of experts is working on a foundation-supported effort to analyze and ultimately strengthen public trust in professional, independent news media, with assessments of 17 recent projects in the field in different parts of the world.
Protecting journalists: Several IMDA members have been engaged in international initiatives aimed at protecting journalists against violent reprisal and reducing risks in conflict-zone reporting, including the UNESCO-sponsored UN Action Plan for the Safety of Journalists and related programs focusing on the special hazards facing women journalists. Several IMDA members are currently involved with consultations focused on safety training programs for journalists and legal safeguards against attacks on the news media, with further expert meetings on the subject scheduled for Oslo in November and New York in December.
Foreign Aid and Changing Media Needs: An IMDA partner organized discussions on international media development at the 2017 conference of the International Association for Media and Communications in Cartagena, Columbia on "Reflections on Foreign Aid, Philanthropy and Change in Media Systems"
Think Global, Act Hyper-Local: From the Balkans to Brooklyn, from Central Africa to Central America, an encouraging trend in economically sustainable independent online reporting is a focus on the ‘hyper-local’ – news about and for often-neglected local communities, from smaller towns and cities to specific districts or neighborhoods in vast megalopolises, with local reporters and editors supported by local readers and advertisers. IMDA partners are involved with assisting new locally targeted media ventures in developing countries and analyzing the potential for hyper-local news sites in different regional contexts around the world.
The Challenge of “Fake News” and Changing Media Development Priorities: RNW Media of the Netherlands and the Washington-based Peacetech Lab hosted a day-long ‘deep dive’ discussion in Washington DC on September 19th on current challenges and priorities for media development internationally, from the perspectives of leading experts and organizations in the field. Three of IMDA’s founding partners participated in the forum, along with representatives of leading independent nonprofit groups in the field, including Internews, IREX, the International Center for Journalism (ICFJ) and the Reuters-Thomson Foundation, plus specialized publicly funded institutions such as RNW and the US National Endowment for Democracy’s Center for International Media Development (CIMA).
Access to Information & SDG16-10: In recognition of the UN’s ‘International Day for Universal Access to Information’ UNESCO’s Latin American regional center in Montevideo organized a 2-day televised & webcast forum on the importance of the right to access to information to democracy, development, and human rights. One of IMDA’s members moderated a panel on the topic and co-hosted a GFMD-UNESCO webinar on Latin American RTI laws and governments’ commitments through the 2015-30 UN Sustainable Development Goals to ‘ensure public access to information.’
Journalists’ Access to Access-to-Information Resources: An IMDA partner managed the first phase of a European Union project aimed at increasing the use by Honduran journalists of national access to information mechanisms, through training programs for investigative reporters, public outreach, and technical improvements to the government’s online public information portals
Strengthening Independent Media: In a multi-year program in Myanmar, an IMDA member worked to help private regional and ethnic media organizations diversify their revenue sources and broaden their audiences by shifting distribution to mobile platforms. Until recent media reforms, these independent regional and ethnic-community-oriented news services were not allowed to operate legally.
Gender, Climate and Media: An IMDA partner is working on a study underwritten by Sweden’s International Development Agency on the relationship and interaction between media freedom, climate change and gender equality in Asian countries
Investigative Journalism Training: An IMDA partner led a seminar on investigative reporting for journalists from Cameroon and Central African Republic, at a time of rising pressure on the news media in both countries
Public Broadcasting Reform: An IMDA partner assisted in the drafting of a bill introduced into the Liberian Congress in August which provides the legal framework for the conversion of the state-run Liberian Broadcasting System into a semiautonomous public-service broadcasting corporation
Media Protection in Political Conflict: An IMDA partner joined an international team of experts to develop specific press freedom and press protection guidelines for Ukraine in the context of the country’s current internal and external conflicts
Confronting Disinformation: At an OSCE conference in Vienna in June titled ‘Media Freedom in Volatile Environments’ an IMDA member moderated a panel discussion on "Propaganda and Disinformation as a Threat to Democracy: Countering it Through Democratic Means"
Some recent publications by IMDA partners:
Betz, Michelle. “Media Noise and the Complexity of Conflicts: Making Sense of Media in Conflict Prevention.” Background Paper for UN-WB Flagship Study, Pathways for Peace: Inclusive Approaches to Preventing Violent Conflict. World Bank, Washington, DC, 2017
Foster, Michelle. “Media Feast, News Famine: Ten Global Advertising Trends That Threaten Independent Journalism.” Center for Independent Media Assistance, Washington, DC, 2017
McElhone, Jane. “In the Service of Power: Media Capture and the Threat to Democracy.” Columbia University (New York) and the Center for Independent Media Assistance, Washington, DC, 2017
Orme, Bill. “Access to Information: Lessons from Latin America.” UNESCO, Paris, 2017
IMDA partners offer their services to public and private donors, media development implementers, and democracy and governance organizations. We work as individual consultants, but we can also develop teams to work jointly on training programs, assessment reports, and other media development consulting projects. IMDA partners have collaborated with the leading bilateral OECD donor agencies, major private philanthropic foundations, and multilateral organizations in providing both advisory and managerial support for media development projects in all regions of the world.
Susan Abbott, Michelle Betz, Michelle Foster, Ellen Hume, Jane McElhone, Bill Orme, Mogens Schmidt, Marguerite Sullivan, Magda Walter, Mark Whitehouse.
If you would like to learn more about International Media Development Advisers, contact us at info@IMDadvisers.com