Attacks against journalists, censorship, media concentration – these are just a few of the factors restricting the right to freedom of expression and access to information in many parts of the globe.
In an effort to better understand and tackle the problems facing the media sector, DW Akademie, together with the US-based Center for International Media Assistance (CIMA) and other partners, is running a series of international multi-stakeholder consultations.
The project "Media Development and the Governance Debate: Reframing the Agenda" brings together at one table stakeholders involved in many diverse aspects of governance and media, including politicians, free speech defenders, academics, media owners and regulators.
The aim of the consultations is to help build and support country-level and regional movements for media reform. In addition, instead of dictating which issues should be tackled, media development organizations like DW Akademie can learn from the consultations by hearing from a diverse array of voices involved in the media sector.
According to Don Podesta, former manager at CIMA, these kind of consultations are about "listening to what people on the ground and from a variety of sectors have to say about the problems for media in each region of the world, and investigating what can be learned in one place that might be applicable in another to improve media environment".
The process follows a systematic approach. During the consultation, participants identify key challenges to the specific media environment under discussion. They also analyze the varying functions of the many actors involved in the sector. This deeper understanding of the multiple factors affecting the media environment can then help efforts to support freedom of expression and access to information in the different regions.
By involving so many diverse stakeholders, the consultations also help the issue of media freedom gain more traction on political and development agendas.
Ultimately, the goal is to have civil society and media watchdog members, broadcast regulators, academics, media industry representatives, parliamentarians and government officials work together to find solutions to the most pressing media issues.
Since the project's inception, DW Akademie and their cooperation partners have held several events, each with a different focus and involving different participants.
June 2015, Bonn, Germany
Fifteen media experts discussed how the media can do harm, such as by spreading rumors or being used as mouthpieces by the powerful. They examined the characteristics of this 'dark-side' of the media and how governance failings allow this kind of media to flourish. They also looked at how media can make it onto governance agendas and why previous efforts to include it have failed.
July 2015, Washington, USA
This roundtable discussion with 40 international development experts addressed the pressing question of how to get politicians and public officials involved in media reform and how media development can be better integrated into overall development discussions.
November 2015, Bogotá, Colombia
At this regional consultation, more than 130 Latin American stakeholders discussed the main challenges facing the media environments in the region and identified the causes of these problems. They also presented ideas on how the international donor community could help and how, importantly, local and regional actors can join forces and build coalitions for media reform. The consultation also created a platform for debate and exchange for the media sector's diverse stakeholders.
August 2016, Bogotá, Colombia
Building on the Bogotá 2015 consultation, this event brought together parliamentarians and regulators from 11 Latin American countries. The goal was to increase lawmakers' awareness of the issues facing the media sector and exchange of information about the situation in other countries in the region.
September 2016, Jakarta, Indonesia
This consultation takes place on September 21 as part of the Jakarta World Forum for Media Development. During the session, individually invited participants from diverse Asian countries and different fields of media and media development will discuss the role of the media in the region and the problems faced by the sector.
This article is part of the #mediadev series "Building coalitions for media reform" where experts from the field of media, academia and development discuss the impact and interaction of media with other governance issues - and how media can fit into the broader development agenda.
Julia Monge and Katrin Stahl