Development actors often pay media organizations to publish content that often is just PR material in disguise. Journalist and media development expert Prue Clarke writes that it’s time to rethink a practice that undermines both independent journalism and the aid sector’s credibility.
Nigeria has a stubborn legacy of corruption that dates back decades. The MacArthur Foundation is investing some $67 million in investigative journalism, transparency, and good governance in the country — an ambitious experiment that could serve as a model for other states plagued by corruption.
Despite increasing state-control, violence against journalists and other threats to press freedom, Southeast Asian journalists are increasingly delving into data journalism and other forms of innovative storytelling and creating a greater impact than ever before — thanks in no small part to Malaysian data journalist Kuang Keng Kuek Ser. GIJN in Chinese editor Siran Liang talked ho him about the rise of data journalism in the region.
The post-election Presidential transition in the United States has raised many questions and concerns among the international development community about the future direction of funding for and engagement with overseas media and democracy assistance. Here, three experts offer their views about the potential for major cuts in funding and politicization of international media support.
For the image on her new Twitter account, Congolese journalist Nanythe Talani features part of a quote by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: “If you can’t run, then walk, if you can’t walk, then crawl, but whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward.”
It’s not unusual for investigative reporting to lead to huge fines. Exposés of foreign bribery, money laundering, and tax evasion have led to billions of dollars recovered by governments worldwide. What is shocking about these numbers is how they compare to the paucity of foreign aid to investigative journalists where it is most needed — in developing and transitioning countries.
Gone are the days of complaints about information operations and psychological operations (PSYOPS) undermining media development being pursued by USAID and its contractors. But those have been replaced by broader concerns that the U.S government overall may now be too focused on counter-messaging at the expense of independent media development. “We are concerned that there is an increasing shift away from supporting genuinely independent media towards what might be termed counter-propaganda and promoting counter narratives,” says James Deane, director of policy and learning at BBC Media Action.
As a rule, media development grants are not news. But a number of Russia’s leading newspapers, including Izvestia and Moscow Times, reported last week that the U.S. Embassy in Lithuania (@USEmbVilnius) has announced that $500,000 is being made available to regional media organizations to combat Russian propaganda. Izvestia pointed to the grant as proof that the U.S. Government is also involved in propaganda and have called the grant anti-Russian. Although not widely known, Western governments — including the United States — are the largest donors to media. They spend tens of millions of dollars per year to help promote independent media, often through grants to large media development organizations in developing and transitioning countries around the world.
Behind the scenes, proponents of freedom of expression are working to ensure that independent media is for the first time a priority in the global development goals set by the UN and its member states. As part of that push, last week more than 300 representatives from media NGOs, journalist unions and associations, civil society groups, governments, and international agencies gathered for The Bali Media Forum organized by UNESCO. The three-day meeting, on August 26-28 in Bali, Indonesia, ended with a clarion call to make access to information and free media a development priority.
For the past seven and one-half years, I have spent large portions of each year doing media-development work–most of it training of journalists or journalism students–in four countries of sub-Saharan Africa, and in Ukraine and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Inevitably, my own experiences and observations about what works and what doesn’t, and what is really important in this work, have passed through my mind while researching and writing this report. None of them is unique, but it may be useful to list what I consider my three strongest lessons from nearly a dozen different training projects.