Today in Myanmar there are few training and professional development opportunities available for journalists. Journalists who have undergone training to upgrade their skills have attended courses held outside of their country. Their level of understanding of journalism conventions, standards and ethics is generally low but varies from publication to publication.
With the support of UNESCO’s International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC), Myanmar Consolidated Media (MCM) organized a training course aimed at building the capacities of journalists working in the print media sector. On 5 April, during the ceremony at The Myanmar Times in Yangon, Ramon Tuazon, from UNESCO’s Myanmar Office, awarded certificates to five trainees that completed the basic journalism skills course.
The topics covered were both theoretical and practical, including learning what is news, what makes news, story construction, conducting interviews in a range of situations, the necessity of attribution, research skills, developing a list of sources and the importance of objectivity and impartiality. The importance of professionalism and media ethics was also covered and instructions were provided on how to politely decline gifts offered by an interviewee in an effort to secure favourable media coverage.
“I hope this course has been as satisfying for the trainees as it has been for me,” said Geoffrey Goddard, trainer and senior editor at The Myanmar Times. He added that he was pleased to have made a contribution towards building the capacity of journalists in Myanmar’s media sector, and wished trainees every success for their journalism careers.
Uruguay joins other countries in the region, such as Chile, that have created self-regulatory mechanisms aimed at ensuring the independence and professionalism of the media. The new code will contribute to the development of improved professional standards and accountability in the media through the creation of ombudsman hearings and mechanisms to evaluate audience concerns. The APU resolution adopting the Code of Ethics invites other professionals, media and unions to adopt the Code as a reference to strengthen professionalism.
This resource comes at a particularly important time for the country as it seeks to implement an open call for the allocation of digital television frequencies.
The adoption of the Code of Ethics is the culmination of nationwide debates, comparative studies, a national survey and extensive public consultation on the draft Code that began in 2011. The project was supported by the UNESCO International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC), the Uruguayan Press Association (APU), the Center for Archives and Access to Public Information (CAinfo), the Media and Society Group (GMS ) of Uruguay, and the Communication and Information Sector of UNESCO for MERCOSUR.
The sessions covered a brief history of the media, the characteristic of state versus private television channels, the importance of the credibility of journalists and anchors, the newsroom cycle, and news gathering.
One of the instructors, Ms Muniba Gull, a senior producer with Star Asia News TV channel, gave a presentation on the media status in Pakistan, including the difference between state and private news television channels. She also talked about biased and unbiased reporting, and the issues of journalist and anchor credibility.
Another trainer, Mr Kavi Shankar, Assignment Editor of Dawn News TV, touched upon the issues of basic elements and types of news, as well as news gathering and creation. The relevance of media ethics was also covered during the first day of the workshop.
Speaking at the inaugural session of the workshop, Ms Fauzia Shaheen, Executive Director of Women Media Centre (WMC) of Pakistan, an organization acting as UNESCO’s partner in implementing the workshop, explained to the participants that IPDC is the only multilateral forum in the UN system designed to mobilize the international community to discuss and promote media development in developing countries. The Programme not only provides support for media projects but also seeks to promote a healthy environment for the growth of free, independent and pluralistic media in developing countries.
During the training course, producers, news anchors, news directors, copy editors, cameramen working with different news TV channels shared their expertise and professional tips with the workshop participants.
The Karachi workshop is the first in the series of six similar workshops that are organized between now and September 2013 in six different major cities of Pakistan, namely Karachi, Lahore, Peshawar, Quetta, Hyderabad and Islamabad.
The eight-member Bureau, comprising expert representatives from each of UNESCO’s different regional groups, considered 110 proposals submitted this year by media organizations in developing countries across the world.
Thirty-three of the projects approved are in Africa and the Arab region, 16 in Latin America and the Caribbean, and 14 in Asia and the Pacific. All of the projects will contribute to IPDC’s priorities – promoting freedom of expression and media pluralism, developing community media and building the professional skills of journalists.
Among those to receive support were projects from Nigeria and Sierra Leone, the first of which will concentrate on promoting the safety of journalists on a national scale, and the latter aiming to improve the transmission capacity of a community radio to allow it to better serve the rural communities of Sierra Leone’s Koinadugu District.
In Egypt, IPDC support will enable twenty women journalists and media workers to receive training in developmental journalism. A project in Myanmar will see the development and delivery of a 10-month training programme leading to a Diploma in TV broadcasting, ultimately contributing to the emergence of skilled and qualified professionals in Myanmar’s media industry.
A separate project from the Latin American region will involve a comprehensive analysis of the national media landscape in the Dominican Republic, based on UNESCO's Media Development Indicators.
All of the 63 projects will be financed from the IPDC Special Account, a common funding pool of donations by UNESCO Member States, which enables the Programme to ensure a global and strategic approach to media development.
The IPDC Bureau also made a special allocation of US$ 35,000 for the development and application of a set of indicators for measuring the safety of journalists, as an add-on to the Media Development Indicators (MDIs), endorsed by the IPDC Intergovernmental Council in 2008.
A number of strategic documents regarding IPDC’s development were also discussed and approved by the Bureau. These included an overall strategy for strengthening IPDC; a fundraising strategy; a communication and visibility strategy; and an information note on strengthening the MDI initiative.
A first Interim Assessment Report was published by UNESCO in September 2011, in order to provide initial input into discussions on legal and constitutional reform following the events of the Arab Spring.
The current report provides a more detailed and in-depth analysis, and takes into account several subsequent changes in the media environment. The assessment was carried out by a team of five independent media researchers. The lead author of the report was Toby Mendel, Executive Director of the Centre for Law and Democracy. He was supported by Yasser Abdel Aziz, prominent Egyptian media expert, and assisted by two junior researchers, Fatima Al-zahraa Abdel Fattah and Hany Ibrahim Mahmoud. Rasha Nabil Allam, Associate Professor at the American University in Cairo, also significantly contributed to the report.
The event, which was broadly covered by the Egyptian media, was chaired by Hassan Emad Mekawy, Dean of the Faculty of Mass Communication of Cairo University and Marius Lukosiunas, UNESCO Cairo Office Advisor for Communication and Information. Toby Mendel, Hassan Emad Mekawy and Naomi Sakr (University of Westminster) who peer reviewed the report presented the findings and recommendations.
Vibrant discussion then followed, and overall the report was evaluated by participants as an important and successful initiative. It will now be published in print in early April and will also be made available on the UNESCO website.
The assessment of Egypt’s national media landscape was carried out with support provided by the Kingdom of Belgium within the framework of UNESCO’s International Programme for the Development of Communication. Similar assessments have already been carried out by UNESCO in ten countries.
>> Link to UNESCO/IPDC Media Development Indicators
The document includes a work-plan to put the UN Plan of Action in to effect, and follows extensive consultation since the endorsement of the Plan by the UN Chief Executives Board on 12 April 2012. The strategy is designed to be implemented at global and regional level, and for adaptation at national level. In the initial phase of its roll-out, and in order to concentrate efforts, the Strategy is especially being adapted to a selection of countries including Iraq, Nepal, Pakistan and South Sudan, as well as Latin America.
The Strategy outlines more than 100 concrete actions to be put in place over the coming two years by different UN agencies working in conjunction with other entities, as part of joint efforts to secure the safety of journalists. Among the measures set out are:
- creating UN internal coordination mechanisms to harmonize the UN actions in this field;
- supporting governments to develop laws on safeguarding journalists and mechanisms favorable to freedom of expression and information;
- conducting awareness-raising activities so that citizens understand the importance of the right to freedom of expression and access to information;
- providing training for journalists on the issue of safety and online safety;
- promoting good working conditions for journalists developing their professional activities on both a full-time and freelance basis;
- establishing real time emergency response mechanisms; and
- enhancing special measures for women journalists in response to the increasing incidence of sexual harassment and rape.
Led by UNESCO, the strategy is the result of a participatory process involving almost 100 actors including UN bodies, intergovernmental organizations, professional associations, media houses, NGOs, academia and governments. These culminated in a draft version that was discussed during the 2nd UN Inter-Agency Meeting on The Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity, which took place in Vienna in November 2012. After further consultations, the strategy has now been finalized in February 2013.
The stimulus for entire process dates further back to a request made in 2010 by the Intergovernmental Council of UNESCO’s International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC).
The implementation of this Strategy on The Safety of Journalists and The Issue of Impunity will be coordinated by UNESCO in close cooperation with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights (OHCHR). Its success depends on a far greater range of actors, whose names can be consulted within the document.
Throughout the process, mid-term evaluations and follow-up meetings will help to ensure that steps are being made in the right direction.