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UN Secretary General new report endorses freedom of expression for post-2015 development

Mon, 08/12/2014 - 15:21

Titled “The Road to Dignity by 2030: Ending Poverty, Transforming All Lives and Protecting the Planet”, the document states that “People across the world are looking to the United Nations to rise to the challenge with a truly transformative agenda that is both universal and adaptable to the conditions of each country, and that places people and planet at the center.”

It continues: “Their voices have underscored the need for democracy, rule of law, civic space and more effective governance and capable institutions; for new and innovative partnerships, including with responsible business and effective local authorities; and for a data revolution, rigorous accountability mechanisms, and renewed global partnerships.”

The report recognizes numerous contributions to the post-2015 development debate, indicating that amongst the points which these have underlined, they have also “called for strengthening effective, accountable, participatory and inclusive governance; for free expression, information, and association; for fair justice systems; and for peaceful societies and personal security for all.”

UNESCO has been prominent among these calls concerning free expression issues to be recognised with the development debate, notably in the World Press Freedom Day Paris Declaration and Bali Roadmap.  Both these documents asked UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova to share their contents with Secretary General Ki-Moon.

In acknowledging receipt of the statements earlier this year, the UN Secretary General communicated to UNESCO that freedom of expression, press freedom, independent media and the right of access to information were of high importance, and should not be lost sight of in the ongoing post-2015 deliberations.

Predating the release of the SG’s new report, UNESCO’s 29th session of the intergovernmental Council of the International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC)  agreed in November on a decision that expressed disappointment that there was “no specific reference to the right to freedom of expression and information and its corollary, media freedom.”

The Council was responding to the UN Open Working Group’s list of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) where number 16 is: “Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.”  Goal 16.10 elaborates: “ensure public access to information and protect fundamental freedoms, in accordance with national legislation and international agreements.”

The IPDC Council urged Member States to ensure that freedom of expression, free, independent and pluralistic media, and media development are integrated into the universal Post-2015 Development Agenda. A report to the council elaborated the work of the secretariat in regard to the status of freedom of expression as both a means and an end in sustainable development.

The “Road to Dignity” report signals that the SDGs will finalized be at a special Summit on sustainable development in September 2015. It proposes the possibility to maintain the 17 goals put forward by the UN’s Open Working Group, and to “rearrange them in a focused and concise manner that enables the necessary global awareness and implementation at the country level”.

UNESCO member states at the 37th General Conference recommended, in Resolution 64(v), that “the importance of promoting freedom of expression and universal access to knowledge and its preservation - including, among others, through free, pluralistic and independent media, both offline and online – as indispensable elements for flourishing democracies and to foster citizen participation be reflected in the post-2015 development agenda”.

The call for freedom of expression to be at the heart of the SDGs was also made by UNESCO at the WSIS+10 event in Geneva during 2014, as well as at a large number of other events.

Besides UNESCO, many civil-societal groupings have been pushing for a clearer statement within the UN on the link between free expression, press freedom and sustainable development.

 An international coalition of non-governmental media development actors has urged the inclusion of these issues in the post-2015 development agenda, including in the Nairobi Declaration on the Post 2015 Development Agenda issued by the African chapter of the Global Forum for Media Development (GFMD) – an international body bringing together over 200 media development actors.

The GFMD coalition has endorsed UNESCO in taking leadership over coordinating the monitoring of any media-related indicators for the post-2015 agenda.

International media law standards fuel the Asia Rounds of the Price Media Law Moot Court Competition in Beijing

Mon, 01/12/2014 - 10:59

The Moot Court Competition, a simulated court hearing used for pedagogical and research purposes, was co-organized by the Beijing-based Renmin University School of Law, its Asia-Pacific Institute of Law and Civil Law, and its Commercial Law Legal Science Research Center, in collaboration with the University of Oxford’s Programme for Comparative Media and Law Policy (PCMLP), and with the support of the UNESCO’s International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC).

Eleven teams from the top law schools in China and one team from the Philippines argued over a complex simulated case dealing with issues concerning freedom of expression in the cyberspace, online content regulation, social media and Internet Service Provider ISP’s responsibility.

Applying comparative and international legal standards, the participants showed impressive argumentative skills to a moot bench composed by top jurists and law practitioners from three continents, including Professor Monroe E. Price, Director of the Center for Global Communication Studies at the Annenberg School for Communication of the University of Pennsylvania; Mr Xiongshan Cai, Senior Legal Manager of Tecent; Mr Mark Stephens, internationally renowned lawyer and Chair of the University of Oxford’s PCMLP; as well as Mr Willem F. Korthals Altes, Senior Judge in the Criminal Law Division of the District Court of Amsterdam.

After a two-day heated and fair competition on legal arguments, the University of the Philippines got the first award, and the University of International Business and Economics (UIBE) of China the second post. The finalists, together with the semifinalists (the Shandong and Peking universities from China) will take part to the global Price Media Law Moot Court Competition to be held in April 2015 in Oxford, United Kingdom.

Mr Raphael Lorenzo A. Pangalangan, a senior graduate from the winning team, credited the success to their great efforts and teamwork. “What I enjoyed the most about this event is the communication of so many different views of points on the issue,” he said. The runner-up team members from China said that the two-day competitions deepened their understanding about the case and of the underlining issues at stake.

Mr Andrea Cairola, Adviser for Communication and Information at UNESCO’s Beijing Office, congratulated all the participating teams, remarking that the Moot Court Programme is not just a simulation, because the legal principles the exercise has been dealing with are very much real and essential for the real world. The realization of these fundamental principles is the basis of the United Nations, and of a peaceful and just human coexistence.

Closing the competition, Professor Price said that it has been really moving to see such kind of institution-build around a set of ideas and a set of principles related to the rule of law. “The way the [legal] profession developed internationally has increased understanding between countries and peoples,” he added.

The Renmin Law School had applied to IPDC for support to the Moot Court Competition, and its project proposal was approved by the IPDC Bureau at its 58th meeting in March 2014. IPDC is the only multilateral forum in the UN system designed to mobilize the international community to discuss and promote media development.

Strong consensus on the safety of journalists at the IPDC Council

Wed, 26/11/2014 - 10:46

The 39-member Intergovernmental Council of UNESCO’s International Programme for the Development for Communication (IPDC ) has emerged in recent years as  a laboratory of ideas on journalists’ safety. As highlighted by Mr Getachew Engida, Deputy Director-General of UNESCO to Council, the IPDC is also the birthplace of the landmark UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity.

At its 29th Session on 21 November in Paris, the Council welcomed the fourth Director-General’s Report on the Safety of Journalists and the Danger of Impunity which tracks the status of judicial inquiries of killings of journalists, media workers, and social media producers who are engaged in journalistic activities and who are killed or targeted in their line of duty, as condemned by the Director-Genera

The Council’s Decision on the report urged “all Member States to encourage the inclusion of freedom of expression and its corollary press freedom in the post-2015 sustainable development goals, in particular the safety of journalists and issue of impunity as a key gateway to achieving Goal 16 which seeks to promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development and access to justice for all through achieving a reduction in violence and crime”.

However, the Council also noted with regret that, in two-thirds of the cases in which journalists have been killed, no information has been submitted to the Director-General despite requests to the Member States concerned to voluntarily provide updates.

According to the Report, no information was provided on 382 out of 593 cases of killings of journalists which happened between 2006 and 2013.

The IPDC decision urges Member States to promote the safety of journalists by taking advantage of the knowledge, experiences and opportunities available through participation in the UN Plan of Action. It notes that the Plan encourages “the development of national processes and mechanisms involving all stakeholders to achieve an environment for the safe exercise of free expression”.

The newly adopted Decision further acknowledged the research report “World Trends in Freedom of Expression and Media Development” from 2014 by UNESCO and in particular Chapter 4 on Safety. It welcomed “the continuation of such research as a UNESCO knowledge resource for governments, media, academia, international community and civil society”.

The support for journalists’ safety by Member States on the IPDC Council is being echoed at the UN General Assembly where its Third Committee has also renewed its commitment on the issues by adopting a new Resolution on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity at its 69th session. This Resolution, which has still to go to the General Assembly,  calls on all stake holders to cooperate with UNESCO and to active exchange information to support the implementation of the UN Plan of Action to improve safety of journalists and to end impunity.

UNESCO Deputy Director-General acknowledges Valeri Nikolski for his outstanding contribution to IPDC

Tue, 25/11/2014 - 17:01
The Intergovernmental Council of UNESCO’s International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC) took the opportunity during its 29th session to congratulate Valeri Nikolski for his outstanding contribution to the Programme as he prepares to retire from the Organization at the end of November.

Do media matter in the post-2015 development agenda?

Tue, 25/11/2014 - 09:20

The 39 Member States on the IPDC Council were responding to a brief on how the IPDC Secretariat helped to mobilize international advocacy for the inclusion of free, independent and pluralistic media in any development agenda that postdates the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The MDGs have so far provided what is regarded as a universal framework for assessing the progress of nations in eradicating poverty, eliminating gender equality and providing affordable education for all, among other things.

The briefing, contained in a status update report, highlights the media-related gaps in the outcome document of the UN Open Working Group which had been tasked to collect and collate testimonies from various development actors, including UN Member States, on possible goals, targets and indicators of sustainable development.

Building on Resolution 64 of the UNESCO General Conference in November 2013, the report appealed to the IPDC members to “constantly and consistently advocate for the inclusion of free, independent and pluralistic media as a key target and indicator of sustainable development”, particularly as the outcome document now moves into the arena of domestic and UN General Assembly discussions.

In particular, the report pointed to the IPDC’s track record in producing and contributing evidence-based insights to the ongoing consultations on the post-2015 development agenda, and argued that the Programme’s “focus on knowledge is paving way for the international media development community to become more visible to the key architects of international development policies, and thus enrich the mainstream sustainable development debate”.

After debating the report, the IPDC Council agreed on a decision that expressed disappointment with the fact that “media and freedom of expression are not at the heart of the future development agenda but only in the periphery”. The Council urged Member States to ensure that freedom of expression, free, independent and pluralistic media, and media development are integrated into the universal Post-2015 Development Agenda.

IPDC elects first ever woman Chair

Thu, 20/11/2014 - 16:25

The Council of the International Programme for Development of Communication (IPDC) also elected a woman Rapporteur, Ms Diana Heymann-Adu (Ghana), a senior lecturer from the Ghana Institute of Journalism.

Council members also nominated Algeria, Bangladesh and Peru for the three IPDC Bureau Vice-Chair positions, as well as Denmark, Niger and Poland for the three Bureau regular membership seats.

The changes were made at the 29th IPDC Council session on 20 November at UNESCO HQ (Paris, France). The Member States of the Council thanked the outgoing Chair, Mr Jyrki Pulkkinen (Finland), who led the IPDC for the last two years, for his commitment to the Programme and his successful chairmanship.

IPDC was set up in 1980 as the only intergovernmental programme in the UN system mandated to mobilize international support in order to contribute to sustainable development, democracy and good governance by strengthening the capacities of free and independent media. Since its creation, IPDC has channeled about US$ 105 million to over 1,700 media development projects in some 140 countries.

IPDC’s Council is composed of 39 Member States elected by UNESCO’s General Conference. It meets once every two years to reflect on the latest trends in the media development field and give direction to the Programme. The Bureau of eight Member States meets once a year and allocates support to grassroots media projects around the world.

Request for Proposals: Media Landscape Analysis, MDI Assessment - Jordan

Fri, 14/11/2014 - 10:46

The proposal should comprise the following components:

  • A description of the organization/party wanting to undertake the assignment;
  • A description of the proposed team, including CVs;
  • Comments on the Terms of Reference if any (in brief);
  • An approach and methodology for the assignment;
  • A detailed work plan for the assignment, including time-line;

The total budget for the assignment, quoted in US dollars. Fees, travel costs, per diems and other costs to be shown separately, as the basis for calculation, but to be included in the total lump sum. More than one scenario may be provided according to different budget ceilings.

Please note that:

  • Your proposal and any supporting documents must be in English.
  • Your proposal should be submitted by e-mail no later than 28 November 2014.

Proposals shall be sent to Mr Johan Romare, copying Ms Rasha Arafeh.

Johan Romare will answer questions on the Request for Proposals on the e-mail above.

Thank you for your interest in this UNESCO assignment, we look forward to receiving your proposal.

From safety of journalists to online privacy, IPDC Council to debate most cutting-edge issues in media development field

Fri, 14/11/2014 - 10:00

These and many other issues will be discussed by the Intergovernmental Council of the International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC), which opens in the UNESCO Headquarters (Paris, France) on 20 November 2014. A special session will also be devoted to online privacy and freedom of expression, including the right to be forgotten.

IPDC was set up in 1980 as the only intergovernmental programme in the UN system mandated to mobilize international support in order to contribute to sustainable development, democracy and good governance by strengthening the capacities of free and independent media. Since its creation, IPDC has channeled about US$ 105 million to over 1,700 media development projects in some 140 countries.

IPDC’s Council is composed of 39 Member States elected by UNESCO’s General Conference. It meets once every two years to reflect on the latest trends in the media development field and give direction to the Programme. In addition to projects supported on an annual basis all over the world, IPDC has also launched a series of initiatives aimed at building a knowledge base in strategic areas, such as:

  • Safety of Journalism
  • Global Initiative for Excellence in Journalism education
  • Assessing Media Development: Media Development Indicators
  • IPDC and Post-2015 Development Agenda
  • Knowledge Driven Media Development
  • Media sustainability

The IPDC Council will also elect a new Chair and new Bureau members. For further information about the Council meeting, please visit the IPDC website.

From safety of journalists to online privacy, IPDC Council to debate most cutting-edge issues in media development field

Fri, 14/11/2014 - 10:00

These and many other issues will be discussed by the Intergovernmental Council of the International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC), which opens in the UNESCO Headquarters (Paris, France) on 20 November 2014. A special session will also be devoted to online privacy and freedom of expression, including the right to be forgotten.

IPDC was set up in 1980 as the only intergovernmental programme in the UN system mandated to mobilize international support in order to contribute to sustainable development, democracy and good governance by strengthening the capacities of free and independent media. Since its creation, IPDC has channeled about US$ 105 million to over 1,700 media development projects in some 140 countries.

IPDC’s Council is composed of 39 Member States elected by UNESCO’s General Conference. It meets once every two years to reflect on the latest trends in the media development field and give direction to the Programme. In addition to projects supported on an annual basis all over the world, IPDC has also launched a series of initiatives aimed at building a knowledge base in strategic areas, such as:

  • Safety of Journalism
  • Global Initiative for Excellence in Journalism education
  • Assessing Media Development: Media Development Indicators
  • IPDC and Post-2015 Development Agenda
  • Knowledge Driven Media Development
  • Media sustainability

The IPDC Council will also elect a new Chair and new Bureau members. For further information about the Council meeting, please visit the IPDC website.

Taking stock of the state of the media in Swaziland

Tue, 04/11/2014 - 14:04

 Participants included executive staff from several key media outlets including The Swazi Observer, The Times of Swaziland, Independent News and Voice of the Church, the chairpersons of Swaziland’s main professional associations such as the National Association of Journalists, Editors Forum, the Swaziland Press Club and the Media Workers Union, and representatives of key civil society organizations including the Swaziland Coalition of Concerned Civic Organisations and Lawyers for Human Rights, as well as journalism education institutions.

The Government was represented by Annelisa Stoffels, Acting Director of the Information and Media Development Department at the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology.    

The purpose of the project, as explained by UNESCO MDI Coordinator Saorla McCabe who travelled to Swaziland for the meeting, is to “engage national stakeholders in a process of constructive dialogue and self-reflection in order to identify the key media development priorities and discuss the most appropriate ways of addressing them.”

There was a wide consensus among participants about the utility of such a study in the Swazi context. Stoffels told the assembly that “the study comes at the right time”, explaining that “it will serve as we redraft the Bills [Books and Newspapers (Amendment) Draft Bill 2007 and Broadcasting Draft Bill 2007] before they go to Parliament.” Alec Lushaba, Chairperson of MISA Swaziland, stated the study would provide a “mirror of the media landscape” enabling the range of stakeholders involved to see where they stand and empower them to act upon the findings in order to together improve the situation of the media in the country.

In an interview at the end of the meeting, Lomcebo Dlamini, National Director of the Swaziland Coalition of Concerned Civic Organisations (SCCCO), said: “This is an exciting project. As civil society stakeholders we are looking forward to the findings and to the consultation. We do believe that as Swaziland moves towards being more democratic and more understanding of issues of human rights, this will also generate a better understanding of the role of the media can play. Hence the need to strengthen the media in those areas where the research reveals gaps.”

Mary da Silva, Member of NGO Lawyers for Human Rights (Swaziland), said the study could encounter some challenges, but would still be “very valuable for all of us, all stakeholders, opening up information sharing on the media environment.” 

Representatives of journalism training institutions attending the meeting similarly perceived the study as providing a window of opportunity. Kemmonye Kamodi, Head of the Faculty of Communication at the Limkokwing University, expressed the wish that “at the end of this study, Government will rethink its sponsorship of journalism students”, following the suspension of scholarships for journalism students some years ago.

“As much as there may be challenges between Government and journalism, we still need journalists that are well trained so that they can show their professionalism when applying their journalism skills.”

Kamodi went on to say that she hoped that the recommendations of the MDI assessment would blend into the Swaziland Vision 2022, which spells out a number of development objectives to be achieved by Swaziland by 2022, and its accompanying National Development Strategy.

Vuyisile Hlatshwayo, lead researcher for the study and National Director of MISA Swaziland, explained that it was a UNESCO MDI report on Mozambique that inspired him to seek UNESCO’s support in launching a similar study in Swaziland. “Last year when surfing the Net I came across the Mozambique report. After reading it, I saw an opportunity for Swaziland”, said Hlatshwayo. He then spelled out his expectations regarding the study: “It will help the government understand what is wrong with the media situation in the country and will enable us to lobby from an informed position. The key strength of the MDI tool is that it is holistic, covering every aspect of media development.”

A similar view was expressed by Lomcebo Dlamini, SCCCO National Director. “This study comes at a time when there are a lot of issues at stake within our media landscape. There are issues with respect to freedom of expression, where our media are not free to delve into the issues that they need to delve into as they analyze what is happening in the country. There are issues in terms of antiquated legislation and a regulatory framework that is not suited for the needs of the media at this time. What is particularly exciting about it this project is that it brings together the various elements that need the media to work on. It is multi-faceted, multi-layered and inclusive of various stakeholders.”

The round table followed a two-day workshop with the members of the research team to define the modalities of application of the MDIs in the country. The project, which will be inclusive and participatory, will be based on a combination of research methods, including desk-based research, data collection and wide-ranging consultations. It is expected to be completed by May 2015.

The MDIs were endorsed in 2008 by the Intergovernmental Council of the International Programme for the Development of Communication. MDI-based assessments have to date been completed in 13 countries and are ongoing in another 20 countries across all regions.

Media development assessment kicks off in Morocco

Wed, 22/10/2014 - 12:24

To conduct the assessment, UNESCO has set up an independent research team comprising of Ms Dima Dabbous, the lead international researcher, and Mr Ahmed Hidass, Mr Driss Ksikes and Mr Bouziane Zaid as the national expert team.

Through a comprehensive study of the media landscape in Morocco, the project aims at presenting key findings and recommendations with a view to defining an environment conducive to freedom of expression, media independence and pluralism.

It is in such a context that the media can best contribute towards, and benefit from, good governance and democratic development.
At the launch of the project, the research team underlined the relevance of using the MDIs in Morocco.

Ms Dima Dabbous, the lead expert, stated: “In comparison to other methodologies used for evaluating press freedom, UNESCO's indicators provide a comprehensive framework. This allows us not only to analyze texts of laws and regulations but also to promote their translation into reality as this is where there are gaps in most of the Arab countries.”

During the discussions, civil society groups expressed their appreciation of the inclusiveness of the process and their involvement in the Advisory Committee. They expressed the hope that the UNESCO report would document some legal cases concerning freedom of expression, the constraints encountered in practice, and the degree of transparency of media ownership and concentration in Morocco.

They also underlined the need for instruments to implement the recommendations that will come out of the report.

Ms Meriem Khatouri, Director of Studies on Media Development at the Ministry of Communication, expressed her commitment to facilitating access to all relevant Government reports and studies on media.

The MDIs are a tool for constructive dialogue and diagnosis that are intended to assist policy-makers and other stakeholders in their range of decisions on the development of media in the country.

Through a series of focus groups and consultations, the assessment process will also help to raise relevant stakeholders’ awareness of international standards of media development.

The key findings of the Moroccan report and its recommendations will be presented in October 2015.

The UNESCO MDIs were endorsed by its Member States within the framework of the International Programme for the Development of Communication. MDI-based assessments have been carried out or are ongoing in 32 countries around the world.

In the Arab States, Morocco is the fourth country to take advantage of the MDIs, after Tunisia, Egypt and Palestine.

This project in Morocco has been made possible thanks to the support of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation.