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Scholars should help make the internet more human-centred

Wed, 26/10/2016 - 19:16

Mr La Rue, who spoke via a video message, argued: “UNESCO has been promoting the idea of a universal internet which respects people’s human rights, is open, affords everyone accessibility and is subject to a governance system based on multistakeholder participation.”

Agreeing with La Rue, Canadian ambassador to UNESCO, Elaine Ayotte, echoed the notion of a multistakeholder internet as key to the democratic potential of the internet.

In this regard, she applauded the support UNESCO’s International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC) provides to media projects promoting freedom of expression and safety on the internet.

The Orbicom conference is an annual gathering which started in Paris in 2012 under the aegis of UNESCO, bringing together UNESCO Chairs and associate members in communication to reflect on how the Orbicom network could contribute towards UNESCO’s work in the area of communication and information. It has since been held in Rabat (Morocco), Bordeaux (France), and Mexico (Mexico).

The philosophy underpinning these meetings, observed Orbicom President, Bertrand Cabedoche, is to ‘act as a think tank to respond both to UNESCO’s need for scholarly reflection to inform its work and the research objectives of individual Chairholders.’

Attracting over 100 participants, the colloquium, which will run for three days, is being hosted by the UNESCO Chair for Information and Communication Sciences, Guislaine Azémard, who is based at the University of Paris 8.


Click here for more information on the colloquium.


IPDC Talks celebrate the first-ever International Day for Universal Access to Information

Fri, 30/09/2016 - 15:49
UNESCO marked the first International Day for Universal Access to Information with a prior event organized by the Organisation’s International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC). Held on 26 September, two days before #AccessToInfoDay, the IPDCTalks was a day-long event themed “Powering sustainable development with public access to information”.

President of Ghana John Dramani Mahama addresses UNESCO on #AccessToInfoDay

Mon, 26/09/2016 - 20:01

In the keynote closing address, Ghana’s president HE John Dramani Mahama, said that open societies offered more sustainable progress to sustainable development than open ones.

“Information empowers people and as much info as possible on the SDGs should be made available to citizens,” he added.

The President urged media to go beyond political coverage to include issues such as gender equality and climate change.

Heralding Ghana’s media free and pluralistic landscape, he quipped: “In Ghana, we have 27 million presidents who know how to do my job and they say so on radio.”

The President expressed the wish to complete the process of passing Ghana’s freedom of information bill, so that the public had a legal basis to demand information. After his speech, a bilateral meeting was held with UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova (see below).

Earlier the UNESCO Director-General opened the IPDCtalks saying that “access to information is a fundamental  human  right, it is  part  of  what makes us human, it is a foundation for good governance”. She called for the information revolution to be a development revolution.

Remarks were also made by Frank la Rue Assistant Director General for Communication and Information at UNESCO. “Access to information is no longer only the basis of democracy but is also now seen as the basis of sustainable development,” he affirmed.

During the day, many speakers gave vivid descriptions of the challenges that ordinary people faced in the areas of the SDGs, bringing to light the role of awareness-raising about the UN’s new development agenda.

Organizer of the event was the International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC), in association with the Information for All Programme (IFAP). Support came from the delegations of the Netherlands and Lithuania.

In an innovative format, each speaker appeared on a spot-lit stage individually, telling stories about their work. Their experience ranged from promoting information about menstruation to education policy makers, through to the role of videogames in supporting literacy for Syrian children unable to attend school.

In the process, they covered SDGs 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 11 and 13, dealing with poverty, hunger, health, water, innovation, cities, climate change, growth and jobs. The speeches will be posted on online for further dissemination.

The Day’s proceedings included the launch of exhibitions by Sweden and Finland, marking the 250 years since their shared history gave the world the first freedom of information act.

UNESCO’s 195 Member States approved 28 September as International Day for Universal Access to Information in December last year. The step came in response to calls from African civil society and media groups.

Nigeria, Morocco and Angola initiated the resolution which won support from the other Member States for proclaiming the new day on the international calendar.

In a bilateral meeting held in the context of the #AccessToInfoDay, the Director-General of UNESCO and the President of Ghana discussed issues of migration of stability and violent extremism in the Sahel Bert. The Director General informed about her recent visit to Sahel, while the President of Ghana underlined the impact of climate change in the region, with the lowering of rainfalls causing migration towards the south, and fights between warlords and farmers. Both emphasized the need to strengthen capacities of governments to implement the Sustainable Development Agenda, both a development issue and an imperative for peace.

Interest in IPDC media project support surges

Wed, 07/09/2016 - 12:11

Over 180 applicants have submitted proposals, representing an increase of over 90 on last year’s submissions which stood at only 88 project proposals.

The requested support for these proposals is estimated at over US$6,651,000, in contrast to last year’s US$3,000,000. The average cost of each project proposal is US$37,000, although IPDC currently can contribute only between US$10,000 and US$35,000 of the total project cost of projects approved for support.

The IPDC encourages applicants to seek counterpart funding as a way of broadening the sustainability base and building strategic partnerships for effective project implementation.

Of all the proposals submitted, over 70 are from Africa, reinforcing UNESCO’s Global Priority Africa. A key feature of several of the projects submitted is a focus on Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development. These range from how to build capacity for effective climate change journalism in Oman and Sudan, countering ethnocentric and religious extremism in Ethiopia and Myanmar, to enhancing the sustainability of community broadcasting in Uganda and Zambia.

Several other proposals call for greater protection of the safety of journalists, such as in Afghanistan, Yemen, Vietnam, and other countries in transition.

The IPDC Bureau, which approves grants to such proposals, will sit in March 2017.

IPDC Chair, Albana Shala, has pointed to this surge in media project support interest as a unique feature of the IPDC in responding to bottom-up media development solutions which complement the Programme’s normative work on media development and safety of journalists.

The IPDC is the cradle of the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity, and the origination of the UNESCO Media Development Indicators which promote free, pluralistic and independent media.

Ms Shala said the increased applications show confidence and interest in IPDC as a delivery mechanism for media development, and urged UNESCO’s Member States to increase their contributions to the Programme as a response to this opportunity to make impact on the role of media in advancing the 2030 Development Agenda.

UNESCO publishes report on safety of Journalists in Nepal

Fri, 02/09/2016 - 16:49

The study finds that there is significant decrease in reported cases of violence and threats against journalists in recent years, and stakeholders widely consider that the security situation of journalists in terms of physical safety has improved.

However, one journalist killing took place in 2015, and many cases of threats against journalists go unreported. Journalists perceive that they are prone to be victimised by both State and non-State actors, and the prolonged political transition has further complicated their security situation.

Impunity has been very serious concern of the stakeholders, as prompt, independent and efficient investigations of crimes against journalists have not been ensured. The faith of journalists in State agencies including the criminal and civil justice system is diminishing.

Moreover, journalists are in highly vulnerable condition. Nearly half of the journalists do not have any appointment letter or contract from their employers, and the journalism profession in Nepal is characterized by low wages, irregular payments, poor working conditions, as well as declining credibility among the public. Women journalists, already a small minority within the profession, are in an even more vulnerable position than their male colleagues, faced with problems like exclusion and harassment.

Though journalists’ safety is becoming an agenda of national interest, a common understanding of the stakeholders on the issue, as well as a national strategy to identify targets and role-players responsible for journalist safety issues, are still lacking.

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has the legal authority to protect human rights, including instances of freedom expression violations. It can conduct investigations and recommend action. However, the role of NHRC is yet to be effective for the promotion of journalists’ safety, the Study finds.

Various local stakeholders have already been collaborating on safety issues in various respects. Especially through UNESCO, the UN system within Nepal has been playing a significant role to monitor and share information about journalists’ safety issues, though there is room for improvement. For instance, the project ‘Increasing the Safety for Journalists’ supported by the United Nations Peace Fund (UNPF) has contributed significantly.

A number of international organisations such as International Media Support are also working in Nepal to promote safety issues in the country. The organisations have been supporting local efforts to promote safety.

The study was conducted by SODEC-Nepal, in consultation with UNESCO. This activity was funded by UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Programme on Development of Communication (IPDC) which is a multilateral forum which promotes a healthy environment for the growth of free and pluralistic media in developing countries.  

The report was developed through a multi-stakeholder engagement and consultation process that included a media stakeholders meeting held on 20 February 2015, and a second consultation meeting on 9 June 2015. A peer review exercise of the study was also carried out before its publication.

The UNESCO’s Journalists' Safety Indicators are developed within the context of the endorsement of the UN Plan of Action on Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity. The research instrument pinpoints significant matters that impact upon the safety of journalists and the issue of impunity, providing a baseline of knowledge against which progress can be assessed.  

To download the publication in PDF format please click here.

IPDC Chair joins debate about research for media development

Tue, 02/08/2016 - 16:18

The discussion took place at the conference of the International Association for Media and Communication Research in Leicester, UK. It was organised by the Centre for International Media Assistance (CIMA), in partnership with University of Westminster academic Winston Mano and media consultant Susan Abbott.

“In many countries, you can't do media developing in a brief three-year period,” said Ms Shala.

The IPDC Chair expressed reservations about development aid that was administered in a “hit & run” or fire-fighting mode.

Against the background of IPDC’s concept of knowledge-driven media development, she noted the importance of research in assessing the role of public access to information for the Sustainable Development Agenda.

“UNESCO and CIMA could cooperate in bringing academics and media development practitioners together,” the IPDC Chair proposed.

Ms Shala encouraged further discussion on the subject at the 4th world gathering of the Global Forum for Media Development in Jakarta, Indonesia, 20-22 September.

An IPDC workshop the day before, on 19 September, will seek to operationalise SDG indicator 16.10.2 on public access to information, investigating co-operation over the scope and data sources of the indicator.

CIMA Senior Director, Mark Nelson, told the meeting that total international development aid was estimated at about $135 p.a., of which only an estimated $625m went into media development support.

“When we talk about media development, a lot of people think we mean (only) training,” he observed. However, it entailed work on both political and technical dimensions, and it required building an enabling environment with an engaged society, an effective public sector, and a dynamic private sector.  

One participant in the meeting called for attention to the political economy of knowledge about media development. Another underlined that researchers need good networks, as well as economic and political capital, to get data on media development.

A third participant noted that it can cost a lot to buy data such as that concerning audience research, and called for more sharing of knowledge.

Researcher collaboration is important, in order to share "tricks" on how to get access to data holdings, stated another person.

Further points made were that research is needed into the motivations of donors, and that gender-sensitivity is essential in investigating the field.  

The general view was that a great deal can be learnt about media development and its outcomes, if academia could be better networked, and capacitated, to expand and deepen their research.

Experts promote gender equality in media for sustainable development

Tue, 02/08/2016 - 12:25

Albana Shala, chair of UNESCO’s International Programme for the Development of Communication moderated the panel. Participants included prominent scholars Carolyn Byerly, Anita Gurumurthy, Lisa McLaughlin, Aimée Vega Montiel, Gitiara Nasreen, and Katharine Sarikakis. 

Ms Shala indicated IPDC’s involvement in developing the SDG indicators, and initiatives in advancing their operationalisation. She noted the low quality of media stories that challenged gender stereotypes, indicating that much needed to be done. 

Many of the panellists regretted that suggestions which GAMAG had made in the process of formulating the SDGs and related indicators had not been taken up with the UN.

In particular, they pointed to the absence of issues of women’s access to media and communication within Goal 5 on gender equality.

Howard University’s Carolyn Byerly said the targets of ending discrimination and violence against women and girls could not be accomplished without having the means to communicate.

Women’s ability to communicate on key SDG issues is marginalized by media ownership, and the lack of access to media decision-making posts, she said. Women also continue to be marginalized as subjects and sources in media and new media.

From the University of Vienna, Katharine Sarikakis said that media should be considered among the institutions to be strengthened under SDG 16, and that this required addressing the issue of women within them.

Miami University’s Lisa McLaughlin criticized what she called an instrumentalism of harnessing media to reach women about the SDGs, rather than recognizing women’s rights to communicate.

The Executive Director of IT for Change, Anita Gurumurthy, warned against ICTs being “instrumentalised as magic bullets, and decoupled from fundamental freedoms”.  She observed that women who speak out, including on the Net, are often seen as trespassers in men’s spaces, and are intimidated into self-censorship as a result.

Gitiara Nasreen, University of Dhaka, questioned the SDG dissemination process, saying that many women did not know about them or saw them as a top-down initiative.

Aimee Vega Montiel, of the National Autonomous University of Mexico, expressed the hope that UNESCO could help influence the development of SDG indicators to include GAMAG suggestions.

Responding to her, UNESCO’s Guy Berger replied that the global processes had largely been completed, and that there were opportunities to include media considerations in more generic indicators such as the share of women in positions on corporate boards.

He said that there would be opportunities at national level for applying more dedicated indicators on media and gender, which could help track progress in reaching the SDGs.

Academics urged to study safety of journalists

Fri, 29/07/2016 - 09:54

The occasion also served to publicise a new network for sharing knowledge projects about the safety of journalists. Hosted initially by the University of Sheffield’s Centre for the Freedom of the Media (CFOM), with a dedicated Facebook page, the network can be joined by sending an email  to the Centre.

Guy Berger, Director for Freedom of Expression and Media Development at UNESCO, opened the discussion, saying: “There is growing momentum worldwide to secure safety for journalism, which means that research on this problem is highly relevant.

“By being part of a network and community of research practice, academics can make impact, mobilise resources for field work, and discover new avenues to disseminate their findings.”

His message was underlined in remarks by Albana Shala, chair of UNESCO’s International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC). She noted that IPDC would consider support for research into journalism safety, and drew attention to the Director General’s report to be presented to the IPDC Council in November.

In one of the panel presentations, CFOM’s Prof Jacqueline Harrison described a research project, supported by IPDC, which is interviewing scores of editors and journalists in six countries including their views on the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity.

She called for research that went into depth, beyond presenting the statistics of attacks on journalists, and motivated for co-operation in a research field that was currently fragmented.

Another speaker, Dr Mireya Marquez Ramirez of Universidad Iberoamericana stated that “safety starts at home”. She therefore proposed investigations into the practical needs of journalists and how media proprietors regarded these.

Prof Basyouni Hamadi of Qatar University reported research findings which found that the credibility of journalists was a factor in terms of whether they were attacked. He unpacked many influences which limit the professional autonomy of journalists.

Dr Chris Paterson, of Leeds University, urged research into the impact on international law from extra-territorial attacks by governments, which is the subject of his recent book “War Reporters Under Threat” (Pluto Press).

Audience participants Prof Ivor Gabor encouraged research into journalists’ associations and safety, and Prof Aimée Vega Montiel highlighted the need to assess the conditions for women journalists in particular.

From UNESCO, Reeta Poyhtari summarised UNESCO’s research and related events, as well as the Organisation’s 10 point agenda for scholarship on journalistic safety

IPDC contributes to first-ever UN report on SDGs

Fri, 22/07/2016 - 10:09

This recognition is contained in the UN Secretary-General’s maiden report Progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals covering 17 goals and 169 targets.

The targets include ensuring public access to information and protecting fundamental freedoms. UNESCO’s International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC) made significant contributions to these issues being included within the 2030 Development Agenda.

In particular, IPDC work with Member States, other UN bodies and civil society, helped to secure two indicators which were used in the Secretary-General’s new report as a basis to assess Target 16.10 on public access and fundamental freedoms.

IPDC also contributed related data towards the new Report, helping to highlight gaps and challenges for achieving the SDGs.

The Report states: “Far too many people are poorly supported by weak institutions and lack access to justice, information and other fundamental freedoms.”

It observes: “A free press is closely linked to access to information and the protection of human rights, but the trend in this regard is discouraging. The number of journalists killed increased from 65 in 2010 to 114 in 2015”

However, the report points to momentum for some progress in that “by 2013, 90 States had adopted laws on freedom of and/or access to information”.

Migration an opportunity, not a threat to sustainable development

Fri, 08/07/2016 - 15:10

In this context, on Wednesday 6 July UNESCO held a landmark conference entitled “Migration for Sustainable Development: Social Transformations, Media Narratives and Education”. Experts from a wide range of backgrounds came together to discuss how civil society and the media can contribute to greater understanding and tolerance in societies facing migration-related challenges.

Frank La Rue, Assistant Director-General of UNESCO for Communication and Information, opened the event, imploring people to understand that “we should not see migrants as victims, or much less as a threat. Migrants are people with an identity and rights like anyone else.”

Her Excellency Ms Eleonora Mitrofanova, Ambassador and Permanent Delegate of the Russian Federation to UNESCO, shared her concerns about the social backlash occurring in many countries. “We are seeing a growth in the violations of migrants’ human rights, anti-immigrant policies, and a growth in discrimination and xenophobia,” Ms Mitrofanova said. She also pointed to an increasing “feminisation” of migration, with women often representing a majority of many migrant and refugee groups.

Alexander Boroda from the Russian Federal Research and Methodology Centre for Tolerance, Psychology and Education shared the experiences of the organization, which has positively influenced the discussion in Russia surrounding the issue of migration. “The idea is to help people better appreciate and respect others, and the opinion of others,” Mr Boroda said.

The first panel discussion was related to improving public perceptions of refugees through more nuanced media narratives, training and education.

“There is a lot of skilled labour in the refugee community – doctors, labourers, journalists,” said Arman Niamat Ullah, a journalist with, an online outlet staffed almost entirely by refugees. Mr Ullah himself came into Europe through Greece as a refugee three years ago, and has since travelled back to document the individual stories of those passing through now. “We have 55 journalists, and 50 of them are former refugees. The mainstream media has to provide a platform and training for these types of people.”

This was echoed by Lisa Söderlindh from the Swedish Migration Agency, who called for identifying refugees with key skills and experience, providing training and then connecting them with employment opportunities. “The important thing is to get refugees and asylum seekers who have journalistic training behind the editorial desk,” she said.

The second panel addressed the drivers of migration and the need for social science to inform policy-making.

The panel was moderated by Prof. Mehmet Akif Kireçci, from Bilkent University and Vice-President of the Intergovernmental Council of the MOST Programme, who emphasized the priority given by MOST to Migration.

Dina Ionesco from the International Organization on Migration addressed migration, noting its environmental character. She underscored the multi-causality of migration. She noted specifically that “sudden-onset climatic events, including floods and diseases, can lead to forced migration, while slow-onset degradation makes it difficult for people to live, causing them to move as well—but it is much harder to manage”.

Mernard Mumpasi Lututala, Director of UNESCO’s Category II Centre on Women, Gender and Peacebuilding in the Great Lakes Region, addressed tensions in Africa between tribal and national identities. He further noted the rapid development of African cities and the pressures on infrastructure. He highlighted the increasing complexity of migratory flows, especially in Africa, where many migrants are in “limbo, comfortable neither in their host countries nor their countries of origin”.

Arno Tanner of the Finnish Immigration Service noted both push and pull factors driving migration to Northern Europe such as persecution, insecurity, social causes, opportunistic smuggling, work and greater opportunity, and a combination of any number of these. He also cited population growth, high rates of youth unemployment, environmental causes and subsequent food price increases as drivers of migration.

Finally, Adebayo Clement Akomolafe related migration to broader questions about identity. As he said, “the identity of a thing is dependent on the conditions that create it”. He encouraged the audience to look past the sterile methodologies currently used to research migrants to reach out to migrants’ narratives and thus get a much fuller picture of their situation.

The round table event was an intersectoral initiative organised by the UNESCO Sectors for Social and Human Sciences (SHS) and Communication and Information (CI), and was supported by the Russian Federal Research and Methodology Centre for Tolerance, Psychology and Education. It builds upon previous work undertaken by UNESCO on the topic, including a major event in March on media and migration, and through the Management of Social Transformations (MOST) programme.

The first round table featured Andreas Wolter, Vice-Mayor of Cologne in Germany; Ms Lisa Söderlindh from the Swedish Migration Agency; Alla Semyonysheva from the Russian Federal Agency for Ethnic Affairs; Arman Niamat Ullah from refugee-led agency; Emmanuel Boutterin, President of the World Association of Community Broadcasters (AMARC); and Syrian journalist Iyad Kallas.

The second panel was moderated by Prof. Mehmet Akif Kirecci, Associate Professor of History, Bilkent University, Vice-President of the Intergovernmental Council of the MOST Programme, and the speakers were Dina Ionesco from the International Organisation for Migration; Bernard Mumpasi Lututala from UNESCO’s Category II Centre on Women, Gender and Peacebuilding in the Great Lakes Region; Arno Tanner from the Finnish Immigration Service; and Adebayo Clement Akomalafe from the International Alliance for Localisation in India.