Doha Centre for Media Freedom is pleased to release the report of the experts meeting on “Supporting Arab media in transitional and post-conflict contexts” that took place in Doha on 30 and 31 January 2012. During this meeting fifteen representatives of media development organisations, news organisations and academic institutions, based in the Middle East and Europe, gathered in Doha to exchange opinions and experiences on the subject.
The closed door meeting, organised by DCMF, revolved around the question of how media development organisations should respond to the opportunities and challenges posed by the popular uprisings that have engulfed the Arab world since early 2011.
The above report offers a summary of the discussions and recommendations for media support in the following five fields:
- Media law and regulation
- Capacity building
- Institution building
- Media management
- Safety and rights
The discussion was kick-started with a keynote address by Guy Berger, Director of UNESCO’s Freedom of Expression and Media Development division. He presented the participants with a number of thought provoking questions regarding the topic of transition. For example, what kind of transition are we talking about, “from what” and “to what”? How can we avoid the new role of media as an outlet for pluralism and contestation from becoming a vehicle for unbridgeable division and renewed conflict? What is meant by “media”? Are we talking about supporting the media, or are we really talking about supporting journalism?
He concluded his address by suggesting to draw on the UNESCO media development indicators as “one way to begin to unpack a multi-threaded situation,” because “these foci give insight into the interdependency of the whole and help to direct our attention to key strategic areas for media support”.
After the keynote address participants were asked to discuss the five themes in small group discussions followed by plenary sessions. Below are a few examples of some of the recommendations these discussions resulted in:
In the field of media law and regulation:
· Media laws and regulations should take into account each country’s circumstances, yet be in line with international law convention and best practices.
· A multi-stakeholder approach to drafting media regulations should be taken.
· Freedom of expression should be enshrined in the constitution.
In the field of capacity building:
· Media education programmes are in need of widespread reform.
· New and veteran journalists need to be reminded of the importance of the ethics of reporting and writing, their rights and responsibilities, and the role of journalism in a democracy.
· There should be a special focus on multimedia integration and new technologies training in the ever-changing media landscape.
In the field of institution building:
· Donors need to respect local ownership in the institution-building process and adopt a holistic approach.
· The issue of representation needs to be addressed urgently: trade unions need to open up to all journalists, and separate associations for publishers, editors and journalists should be established.
· Self-regulatory bodies need to be strengthened or created.
In the field of media management:
· Exchanges of experiences between managers in times of conflict and confusion should be promoted in meetings customised for the Arab context.
· Editors should provide journalists with guidelines so that journalists are capable of distinguishing their opinions and/or political activism from their reporting work.
· Arab media should have clear policies and guidelines on the management of citizen journalism. Social media editors should be established in most outlets.
And lastly, in the field of safety and rights:
· Safety training should be prioritised for journalists covering countries in situations of war, conflict or mass protests, in particular for filmmakers and photographers, who are being specifically targeted by government security forces.
· International pressure must be put on Arab governments to end the culture of impunity surrounding the death of journalists.
· New formats and practical ways must be found to disseminate safety information as widely as possible, including to citizen journalists.
DCMF hopes this report will serve as a reference guide for the media development sector in the Arab world, and welcomes any questions and comments this report might raise. Please contact us via email@example.com.
Lastly,DCMF is grateful to the fifteen participants who took time away from their busy schedules to attend the meeting. A special word of thanks goes to Magda Abu-Fadil (Media Unlimited) and Daoud Kuttab (Community Media Network) for their invaluable support in organising this meeting.