The three-day workshop focused on UNESCO’s Media Development Indicators (MDIs), a tool for assessing media development in a given country that can identify areas in which assistance is most needed. The associated Journalists’ Safety Indicators were also introduced.
Participants in last week’s workshop praised the rigor and breadth of the MDI framework, which they said could provide a valuable tool for media research and development in the Arab region.
The MDIs “provide an excellent opportunity for gathering information that is badly needed in this part of the world,” said Nabil Dajani, Professor of Media Studies at the American University in Beirut. “I have been trying for years to collect such information. With this approach you can come out with facts, with information that is really relevant and that will help develop the media situation in the Arab world.”
Dima Dabbous, Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication Arts at the Lebanese American University, agreed, calling the MDIs a “wonderful way of measuring or mapping progress” through a common methodology that can be used by researchers in different countries.
Both participants also saw the MDIs as a pedagogical method that they could bring to their university courses to train future media researchers.
For Mohammed Abdulrahman, Partners and Intenational Development Coordinator at Radio Netherlands Worldwide, the training workshop was “vitally important” for his work in developing partnerships with media organizations in the Arab region, by providing a way to assess the strengths and needs of potential partners.
The workshop also allowed participants to exchange with other researchers with shared interests from across the region.
“I will leave this conference not only having learned more about the MDIs themselves, but also with a large network of Arab professionals with whom I can connect later on to do more research in this common field,” said Dabbous.
In addition to the benefits to the participants, the workshop was also strategically important for UNESCO’s ongoing work to promote freedom of expression and media development in the Arab region.
MDI-based assessments have been completed in 11 countries and are currently underway in 18 others. In the Arab region, such assessments have been completed in Egypt and Tunisia, are underway in Iraq, Libya and Palestine, and are planned in several other countries.
“Through this regional workshop, UNESCO was able to achieve two important objectives,” said Saorla McCabe, coordinator of the MDI initiative. “Firstly, it allowed us to build a pool of potential partners for future MDI-based assessments in the Arab region, comprising high-level media researchers with excellent knowledge of the region. Secondly, we could fine-tune the Organization’s approach to applying the MDIs in this particular context, through an interactive discussion on the most appropriate research methods and data sources, challenges and opportunities.”
The workshop was supported by two regional extrabudgetary projects: Promoting an Enabling Environment for Freedom of Expression: Global Action with Special Focus on the Arab Region, financed by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), and Promoting Freedom of Expression in Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Syria, Tunisia and Yemen, financed by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland.
UNESCO’s Media Development Indicators were endorsed by the Intergovernmental Council of UNESCO’s International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC) in 2008.
They have since been recognized internationally by major actors in the media development field, including the United Nations Development Programme, the World Bank, the Council of Europe, the International Federation of Journalists, International Media Support, the Media Foundation for West Africa and the Doha Centre for Media Freedom.
Forty-two percent of the funding targeted Africa – a region that UNESCO treats as a ‘global priority’. In comparison, 23,5% of the funds will support projects in the Asia-Pacific as well as the Latin-American and Caribbean regions while 10% was earmarked for the Arab region. European project support represents one percent of the budget envelope.
An additional allocation of US$ 20,000 was provided to support the application of the UNESCO/IPDC Journalists’ Safety Indicators (JSIs), a subset of UNESCO’s Media Development Indicators (MDIs) designed to assess the level of journalists’ safety in a given country. The purpose of the tool is also to measure the actions undertaken by various stakeholders in promoting safety and tackling the impunity of crimes committed against media workers. As such, it will help evaluate progress in the implementation of the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity.
The IPDC Bureau also set aside US$ 15,000 as seed funding for the Global Initiative for Excellence in Journalism Education, which intends to promote partnerships among schools of journalism around a set of core principles of excellence in teaching, research and professional outreach.
The meeting involved discussions on the IPDC’s other standard-setting and normative initiatives. These included an update on the knowledge-driven media initiative, which seeks to enhance the role of knowledge in informing UNESCO’s media development efforts. Bureau members were also presented with a report focusing on the impact of the MDI-based assessments of national media landscapes carried out to date.
The Bureau confirmed that the topic of the thematic debate at the next session of the IPDC Intergovernmental Council on 19-21 November 2014 would be ‘Online privacy and freedom of expression’.
The IPDC Bureau is the body in charge of project selection and allocation of funds, and includes representatives of Member States from each of UNESCO’s different regional groups.
Unveiled during the 58th bureau meeting of the International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC), the report attempts to clarify what UNESCO sees as an opportunity for the international community to make explicit the connection between free, independent and pluralistic media and sustainable development.
The brief was referenced in an update on the status of the IPDC-endorsed Knowledge-Driven Media Development initiative presented by Fackson Banda, a programme specialist in UNESCO’s Division of Freedom of Expression and Media Development.
The presentation highlighted the fact that the IPDC had collected enough data from its media development project implementation to enable Member States make an informed judgment on how effective independent media could be in supporting their development objectives.
The brief outlines three key arguments as to how this case can be made. These include the fact that there is enough empirical evidence to suggest that free media can impact positively on sustainable development. Another argument is that any support for free media as an integral part of democracy and development is indicative of good governance – an issue that the report stresses the UN Open Working Group has consistently referred to in its reports.
The final argument is centred on the idea that supporting free media actually lives up to the core normative mandate of the UN system -- as agreed to by many Member States.
The Bureau meeting, held from 20 to 21 March 2014 at UNESCO’s Headquarters in Paris, also heard how the Organization was positioning itself to generate knowledge that could be used to enhance media support globally and thus continue to contribute towards building a coherent evidence base for the media’s role in different facets of sustainable development.
The Bureau members were presented with an analytical report based on the IPDC implementation reports prepared by the Programme’s over 200 grantees. The report – a key part of UNESCO’s contribution to the media-development debate – covered several issues, including the need for a clearer understanding of the cultural and institutional context of IPDC project implementation.
In welcoming the update on the status of the initiative, Bureau members noted that UNESCO was best placed to offer evidence-based insights into the relationship between media development and sustainable development.
Viet Nam has 54 ethnic groups recognized by the Government, with a population of 13 million ethnic minority people. Government policies are in place to promote cultural identity while encouraging ethnic and media diversity. Thus, out of 67 radio and television stations, 39 stations have had broadcasts in 26 ethnic languages. However, of the 341 broadcaster personnel of ethnic minority programmes, only a small number are of ethnic minority origin, and few were able to write news stories and reports in the national language, let alone in their mother tongues.
Recognizing the need to increase the number of ethnic minority broadcasters and improve training for those who have received very little over time, the Voice of Viet Nam (VOV) and UNESCO’s International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC) teamed up to hold training for 60 ethnic minority broadcasters in order to build their capacity and give them the confidence to share what they learned with their local communities. Participants acquired skills needed to produce content designed for ethnic minority communities, write stories, use digital recorders, and select appropriate sound and music. Other important skills such as the use of sound editing software and understanding the best use of search engines to find information were also integrated throughout the training sessions.
Upon completion, the number of participants able to use digital recorders jumped from 30 percent to 97 percent. With similar success, the number of participants using software to edit and mix sound fluently on their personal computers increased from zero to 100 percent.
Radio has long been considered as one of the most effective means of communication in remote regions, which are often inhabited by ethnic minority communities. Recognizing this importance, the Vietnamese Government began implementing in 2011 a “National Target Programme expanding information to remote, mountainous, border and island area”, with particular emphasis on disadvantaged and ethnic minority regions. The training conducted by the VOV and the IPDC have helped towards this programme.
A network of broadcaster personnel of ethnic minority programmes was set up following the training course, and it will help with the long-term goal of bringing relevant content in local languages to all regions of Viet Nam.
Recognizing the importance of radio as an essential source of relevant information for local listeners specific to their language and culture, the government of Lao PDR was supportive of bringing radio to this area in which it had previously not existed on a local level.
The project, which began in September 2012, involved successfully renovating a building to serve as a fully functioning radio station, complete with an FM transmitter and studio equipment. In order to ensure that the station would be used and maintained, radio technicians, programme producers, and 25 journalists were trained, with a particular focus on training women. By early 2013 the station was up and running, broadcasting directly from Lao National Radio three times a day. In the second half of 2013, Xiengkho Radio became fully functioning under the goals of the project, broadcasting daily local programs in Lao languages as well as Lao National Radio programs in Lao, Hmong, and Khmu languages.
Mr. Sipha Nonglath, Director of Lao National Radio, in discussing the importance of community radio for Lao PDR during the opening ceremony of Xiengkho Radio last April, said that given that most people relied mainly on agriculture, radio was effective for communicating policies and providing information and entertainment.
Further development and support of radio in provincial Lao PDR will increase availability of content in local languages, facilitate access to information and open up new spaces for rural and ethnic people to make their voices heard.
This has been through a project developed with the Cambodian Communication Institute (CCI) and the International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC). In mid-February, 14 reporters from seven provinces gathered for a one-week training course on the conceptual and technical aspects of community-based radio feature production, followed by three weeks devoted to in-field training sessions.
Once these were complete, each trainee has produced various feature stories. According to Mr. Ratana Som of the CCI, participants “showed great interest in the training and actual practice and expressed their eagerness to acquire more new knowledge and skills to upgrade their daily practices. Many have, to some extent, put what they learned from the course into ongoing practices as they understand the importance of a good community-based radio piece.”
With story topics ranging from the increase of fishery crimes in one commune to the lack of preschool facilities in another community, the training led to specific and relevant content being disseminated.
“Besides receiving locally relevant information in a timelier manner, local people have been active stakeholders (producers) of a radio programme,” said Mr. Som in regard to the project.
He added: “The equipment support from UNESCO has been indispensable for the actual practices during the training period and for our trainees to carry on the mission to produce community-based radio programs beyond the project period,” he said. Deemed a “successful” project by the CCI, the effects reinforce radio as a crucial means of reaching a vast portion of Cambodia’s population.
Dart Centre Asia Pacific (DCAP) is a unique organization that draws upon a network of media professionals, mental health experts, educators and researchers to assist in raising awareness of the relationship between trauma, psychological and physical safety, and quality ethical reporting. Through support and funding from UNESCO’s International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC), DCAP was able to create a fellowship programme providing specialized training to media professionals from across the Asia-Pacific region and from all journalistic mediums on the negative effects of psychological trauma exposure and on how to deal with it.
DCAP has recognized that the safety training contributes not only to personal well-being, but also to press freedom in general, as it enables journalists to better report in traumatic conditions. The fellowship programme, titled “Enhancing Understanding of Traumatic Exposure as a Safety Issue for Journalists,” began on 12 May 2013 at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok with 24 media professionals in attendance. The trainers were specialists in psychological safety and well-being, in professional journalistic ethics, and in the issues related to victims of violence and trauma. Therefore, participants received training that served a dual purpose: to gain skills for reporting in situations of trauma, and for protecting their emotional health after a trauma exposure.
The project was designed with two stages so that knowledge gained during the fellowship would be carried forward, passed on to others in the journalists’ home regions or areas of work. The second stage involves ongoing support for participants to educate colleagues in their home countries about the relationship between exposure to trauma and the role of reporting. The support will remain in place until first stage participants are confident and skilled enough to facilitate ongoing trainings in their home countries. Many were already able to express the positive effects of the programme soon after the on-site training. “Dart Centre fellowship is something that helps one to be a better journalist, a leader in his/her community and also to be a better person,” said one participant.
With the support of UNESCO and the IPDC, Dart Centre Asia Pacific was able to carry out a successful and powerful programme. “Dart Asia Pacific Fellowship has been an eye opener for me. I have learned more than I have hoped to gain from this fellowship and I am willing to carry this message forward in my home country and beyond,” one participant shared. The willingness to take learned knowledge back home is essential in carrying on the outcomes of the programme, and ensures that positive effects will be seen for years to come.