Ms Shala highlighted that IPDC is adapting to meet the challenges of the digital age, through partnerships such as with Deutsche Welle on indicators for media viability – including digital viability, as well as by supporting innovative media projects like an online course for Mexican judges.
These activities aimed to help bridge the digital gap among nations and to support online freedom of expression and access to information as rights.
“No other contemporary development is likely to be more profound in its long term impact on global society than the information revolution and the rise of the Internet,” said the IPDC Chair.
Ms Shala described how IPDC was at the forefront of global efforts to support the safety of journalists, including digital safety. In addition, IPDC supported the empowerment of young people to put their issues effectively onto the digital media and social media agenda.
“This is what gives young people control of their own identities – instead of leaving vulnerable to emotional manipulation by propaganda or advertising. We live in a young world,” she said.
Her remarks noted that IPDC’s Council endorsed continued work in standard setting through the elaboration and application of indicators relevant to media development.
This includes work on indicators for Internet development, to assess the extent to which the universality of the Internet is being reinforced by the principles of human-Rights, Openness, Accessibility, and Multi-stakeholder participation (R.O.A.M).
More could be done but IPDC was increasingly being fitted out, said the IPDC Chair, adding that “it goes without saying that UN has to be fit for the digital age, for which we have no alternative”.
The first place to start such a discussion on media viability is the new assessment framework developed by the IPDC in conjunction with the Deutsche Welle Akademie, observed Laura Schneider, Project Manager responsible for research and evaluation at the DW Akademie.
Earlier in his introductory remarks, Fackson Banda of the IPDC explained that such an assessment tool was represented by the newly developed IPDC Media Viability Indicators, aimed at producing an evidence base for understanding the status of economic and financial viability of media in a given country.
Taking up this point, Schneider, whose organization partnered with the IPDC in developing the toolkit, stressed that it was important to pilot the indicators in order to get a sense of their usefulness and versatility as a diagnostic tool.
Speaking on behalf of the Center for International Media Assistance (CIMA), Mark Nelson, the centre’s Senior Director, unveiled a study conducted by CIMA to aid understanding of what, how and where media assistance was supported by OECD/DAC (Development Assistance Committee) countries.
He concluded that the IPDC’s Media Viability Indicators could potentially be a game-changer in getting OECD/DAC countries to better target their assistance in support of the larger question of improving free and independent media.
For his part, DW’s Daniel Blank, responsible for global partnerships, challenged the participants to think of how the Media Viability Indicators could be used in training a cadre of future media business strategists.
He expressed concern that business training workshops were sometimes carried out in an environment of insufficient knowledge about the business positioning of media companies, pointing out that the IPDC toolkit could potentially remedy this.
The Media Viability Indicators were developed by Robert Picard of Oxford University in consultation with the IPDC and the DW Akademie.
Among others, the panel discussion was attended by representatives from the BBC Media Action and Germany’s Catholic Media Council (CAMECO). The panel was one of several organized at the Global Media Forum organized by Deutsche Welle under the theme “Media and Foreign Policy in the Digital Age”.
Chair of UNESCO’s International Programme for the Development of Communication, Albana Shala, moderated the discussion, which gave particular attention to the role of the media:
- Larry Kilman of the World Association of Newspapers described good practice with media companies that have clear guidelines for online commentary, and in terms of which they moderate content to ensure a civil conversation.
- Remzi Lani of the Albania Media Institute warned that if mainstream media practised “hate silence”, this tended to drive hate speech into “echo-chambers” in social media. Balkan wars had ended on the ground 15 years ago, but tension was continuing with a new generation on the Internet.
- Media and social media are unwittingly helping ISIS recruitment, said Iraqi journalist Dana Asaad, who criticized the reportage of only a small part of the reality. “Media should show the peaceful sides of Islam, and cover the stories of victims of ISIS,” he said.
State responses were discussed by Gabrielle Guillemin of the NGO Article 19. She highlighted that any website blocking should be exceptional and adhere to international standards for freedom of expression. Courts rather than law enforcement bodies should make the determination.
The need for states to promote Media and Information Literacy in schools was urged by Olunifesi Adekunle Suraj of Lagos State University. He said that this form of empowerment was needed because protectionist steps were not working.
Research and conceptual clarity is critical, said Oxford University academic Iginio Gagliardone, who is also lead author of a new UNESCO study released at the event.
In order to counter hate speech online, both the causes and the actual impact have to be understood, he said. Social context was vital to assessing whether there was really a risk of harm arising from incidents of hate speech online.
The conference is convened in a partnership between the Information for All Programme and IPDC.
Ms Shala posed a number of questions: “How can we help youth de-romanticize danger and violence? How to nourish in them a sense of purpose and fulfilment and make radicalization less acceptable and desirable? How to empower youth be free?”
The Chair noted that although Internet plays a role in radicalisation, it was not the principal driver. Nevertheless, the Internet and offline media could be used to counter radicalization. In this, IPDC played a positive role by:
- Promoting media pluralism: freedom of choice so that individuals, young and old, have credible alternatives to messages that romanticise radicalization.
- Empowering young people to put their issues effectively onto the media and social media agenda, and to control their own identities – instead of leaving them vulnerable to emotional manipulation by propaganda or advertising.
- Capacity-building for journalists to be sensitive to their work possibly contributing towards stereotypes and misinformation among young people.
- Supporting safety of journalists so that they can report to the world on the role of extremists in radicalisation,
Ms Shala also listed the activities IPDC was proposing within the wider UNESCO project to take forward the momentum of the conference:
- Countering hate speech in media and social media;
- Promoting conflict-sensitive journalism practice;
- Promoting cross-cultural and cross-religious dialogue; and
- The safety of journalists.
To help respond to this alarming situation, UNESCO’s International Programme for the Developmnet of Communication (IPDC) supported the project "Safety of Journalists Working in Hostile Environments in Rural Pakistan", aimed at training journalists in safety-related issues.
Six training programmes were organized in three districts of South Punjab (MuzzaffarGarh, Bahawalpur and RahimYarKhan), which is in the grip of religious extremism and sectarian violence. A total of 90 journalists were registered for six training workshops but due to pressing demand 125 journalists were finally accepted, including 38 women.
The participation of women in the project was noteworthy, taking into account local circumstances. “We hail the decision to include 38 female contributors in the Samasatta and MusafirKhana training workshops”, said RMNP Coordinator Ms NajmaunNisa Bukhari.
“In the rural areas of Pakistan, where 70 % of the population lives, only a few journalists are female. In Bahawalpur region, home to 12.5 million of inhabitants, there is not a single female journalist. And men cannot report about women's points of view as they cannot approach and talk with women freely.”
She concluded: “The almost none-existence of women journalists means that the media do not cover a large segment of society. Women’s perspective is totally missing in the news coverage. There is an urgent need to expose human rights violations against women in local and national media.”
Topics covered during the training programme included how to cover violent mobs; dealing with pressures, threats and intimidation from different sources; managing contacts and relations with information sources; how to protect facts and maintain balance in a story; and how to cover a bomb blast.
Issues like covering warlords’ atrocities, gang rapes and honor killings were also included in different workshops. Parallel practical exercises were conducted to improve writing skills.
For the purposes of the training, RMNP upgraded a training manual on safety issues in Urdu. All six events were conducted by Karachi- and Lahore-based trainers.
The training programme ended with the establishment of a safety mechanism for journalism practitioners in three difficult areas of South Punjab, where no media house is actually present, as well as the setting up of six local press freedom monitoring committees. The project participants also urged the relevant authorities to make the protection of journalists a national priority.
“The biggest challenge in Pakistan, apart from the direct threat to the life of journalists, is a culture of impunity. Only the killers of two journalists out of 116 cases have been arrested in the last decade. This promotes impunity and allows anyone to threaten and target journalists because they know they can get away with murder”, said RMNP President Mr. Ehsan Ahmed Khan Sehar.
The meeting gathered 25 participants from Kenyan media associations, the Ministry of Information and Communications, Ford Foundation, and Kenyan National Commission for UNESCO.
Participants discussed national state of journalists’ safety in Kenya and deliberated on the issue of impunity on the basis of the UNESCO Journalists’ Safety Indicators as endorsed by the UN Plan of Action on Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity. They also reflected on modalities for the implementation of UNESCO’s ongoing study conducted by the African Media Initiative to analyse the national state of journalists’ safety and issue of impunity in Kenya.
During the meeting Ms Reeta Pöyhtäri, UNESCO’s Expert for Journalists’ Safety Indicators, gave a presentation on the UN Plan of Action and reiterated the specific objectives to be achieved during the aforementioned study in Kenya, which is expected to assess the safety and protection of journalists, to create awareness about these issues, and to provide a knowledge-based platform for future initiatives to address the threats to the media industry in Kenya.
Ms Pöyhtäri further reminded that freedom of expression is a fundamental element of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and therefore it underpins other democratic freedoms such as the right to form political parties, the right to share political ideas, the right to scrutinise the actions of public officials.
Dr George Nyabuga, the lead researcher, briefed participants on the study’s proposed methodology based on UNESCOs Journalists’ Safety Indicators and also presented a framework that will be used to identify the context of safety and the responsibility of diverse actors in Kenya. The framework comprises a working tool that will focus explicitly on journalists’ safety. This tool will allow for assessment of the problem, of the systems in place and the actions of various actors and institutions concerned in addressing the issue of journalists’ safety in the country.
According to Mr Wangethi Mwangi, Senior Advisor, African Media Initiative, “the meeting provided a better understanding of UNESCO's Journalists’ Safety Indicators, and helped clarify the scope of the proposed research, its limitations and, also, opportunities for in depth investigations in some areas”.
“This was an extremely important exercise considering the deteriorating situation of journalists’ safety in Kenya. The data and information that will be collected during the period of this research will help create sound interventions,” said Patrick Mutahi, Senior Programme Officer, Article 19 - Eastern Africa.
Ms Hellen Mudora Obanda, Executive Director, Association of Media Women in Kenya (AMWIK), reiterated that “while assessing journalists’ safety in Kenya, the gender dimensions of intimidations, threats and violence against women journalists must be addressed in this research. The security of women journalists remains paramount.”
This activity falls within the efforts of UNESCO to “promote an enabling environment for freedom of expression, press freedom and journalistic safety in Kenya”. The study is funded by UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Programme on Development of Communication (IPDC), which is a multilateral forum in the UN system that not only provides support for media projects but also seeks an accord to secure a healthy environment for the growth of free and pluralistic media in developing countries.