Report: Journalism Training in the Digital Era

Thoughts from leaders in media development

CIMA’s latest report, Journalism Training in the Digital Era: Views from the Field, remarks upon the digital revolution for media development. Practitioners are hard pressed to find a request for proposal that doesn’t incorporate some new media elements–and as author Bill Ristow reports, “media developers now need to think like new media entrepreneurs.”

But what does this mean for journalism training, ofttimes the staple of many media development interventions?

Bill Ristow at a journalism training.

Ristow, a journalism trainer himself, interviewed thirteen journalism trainers from across the media development field—academics, implementers, and journalists, each spreading that same message that context is key.

“The mix has to be there,” says Jerome Aumente, former professor at Rutgers University and a journalism trainer over the past two decades, interviewed for the report. “What you must do is line it up with the realities of the country you’re in and calibrate it to make it match up. There’s no point in teaching higher-end technology to a region that is still basically newspaper focused.”

Ultimately, Ristow’s recommendation is one that can be applied to the media development field as a whole: While we can’t discount the benefits brought on by technological development, we should be careful not to be swept up in them.

Read the full report and see the recommendations from the experts.

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Posted in global, Innovation, Sustainability

Africa Summit 2014: Recommendations for the Media Sector

Yesterday, we offered a behind-the-scenes look at what representatives of the media sector in Africa saw as the greatest challenges facing the region’s media development. Today, that group met in Washington to make recommendations on how to combat these challenges.

The panel’s spokesperson, Henry Maina of Article 19, said that the rapid change in Africa’s media environment has left the region with a degree of inconsistency. While positive developments such as mobile telephony and the Internet have created “new avenues for civic engagement and citizen participation,” these are far from ubiquitous in the region. Where they exist at all, the implementation of media laws, such as access to information or freedom of expression, is spotty.

Far and away, solutions will call for a multi-faceted approach–meaning that not only African governments, but also foreign governments, development agencies, inter-governmental organizations, and especially media practitioners should be held to account for the success of the media sector.

Henry Maina and representatives of the media sector in Africa present recommendations for development.

Henry Maina and representatives of the media sector in Africa present recommendations for development.

You can watch the entire presentation here (the media panel starts at the 2:00:00 mark). Below are the panel’s recommendations as presented in Washington this afternoon, in full, based on a document obtained by CIMA.



The media must be central to all discussions on Post 2015 Sustainable development goals and the ongoing USA-Africa trade partnerships.

US Government

  • There is need for the USA government to deal with the incoherence that often times is witnessed between the rhetoric in Washington and the practice of respective USA missions in different countries;
  • The government must seek to develop clear media support programme within its USAID programme portfolios;
  • The must seek to balance its support of counter-terrorism processes and laws with clear protection of freedom of expression and media; and access to information.

Media Agencies

  • International media networks must endeavor to cover Africa differently, holistically, as opposed to the continued narrative of Africa being the hopeless continent of disease, death and desperation


  • All governments must review and repeal all repressive laws that unduly restrict freedom of expression, media freedom and access to information. Some of such laws include but are not limited to criminal defamation, insult, sedition, publication of false news;
  • Using the ACHPR Model Law on Access to Information as a minimum benchmark, all governments must pass, review and implement comprehensive access to information laws;
  • All governments where there are pending cases of violations of media freedom cases must institute credible and independent investigation processes and bring to justice all those deemed to be culpable in those violations;
  • Establish independent media regulatory mechanisms with a view to ensure media pluralism, diversity and transparency in broadcasting and telecommunications frequency spectrum allocation and management;
  • Utilise the African Peer Review Mechanism, UN Universal Periodic Review processes and recommendations to improve on the situation and role of media in development;
  • Establish clear and transparent policies on proportionate state advertising that promotes independent media and is not used to stifle critical media organisations.

Inter-Governmental Organisations

  • All inter-governmental organisations must develop clear media support programmes and where possible designate specified quotas of their resources to media development work;
  • That the World Bank, African Development Bank and UN agencies  should offer leadership by promulgating access to information policies that enable African citizens to know their dealing with their respective governments but also develop clear programme support to the media;
  • The UN treaty bodies and special mandate holders must underscore the centrality of freedom of expression, media freedom and access to information as fundamental rights but also instrumental rights in protection of economic and social rights;
  • The African Union Commission must show leadership in assisting states to ratify and meet their obligations under the international and regional human rights treaties and support positive comparative learning across the continent;
  • The African Commission on Human and Peoples Right must be supported to undertake both monitoring and promotional work;
  • The African Union Commission under the legal directorate must review the African Convention on Cyber Security to ensure that it is an enabler of the efforts to make African economies knowledge and information based economies and in line with the 2063 developmental needs;
  • Support the raising of awareness and implementation of the UN Action Plan

Development Agencies and Civil Society Organisations

  • All development agencies must advocate for inclusion of media freedom, freedom of expression and access to information in the ongoing Post 2015 Sustainable Development Goals
  • Set up clear programme to offer legal and other support to journalists in distress across the continent;
  • Civil society organisations must be develop clear programming to support media freedom and not just use media as a communication tool for their work.

Media practitioners and Media Owners

  • Media practitioners must organize themselves better at national and continental level and offer support and solidarity to their colleagues and peers in distress in specific countries;
  • Media houses must develop and implement comprehensive gender and sexual harassment policies;
  • Support women journalists through targeted mentorship programme(s) to enhance retention and career progression;
  • Support self-regulation initiatives and partner with universities (national, international) to develop professional training programmes that enhance professionalism and specialization in reporting on different developmental issues.

Private Sector

  • Encourage multinational corporations to advertise and invest in select media houses in different countries in Africa both in direct broadcasting stations and also in local production houses, distribution.
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Posted in Africa, Impact and Evaluation, Sustainability

Africa Summit 2014: Challenges to the Media Sector

In the midst of the US-Africa Summit taking place for the government leaders in Washington, DC this week, civil society and media groups met at the National Endowment for Democracy to create a specific set of recommendations and goals for the region’s development.

While broad facets of civil society were present at the NED’s conference on Tuesday, the media sector specifically had sixteen participants from all the five sub-regions of the continent. The media’s working group discussion was facilitated by CIMA’s senior director Mark Nelson.

What must African governments, the US, and civil society do to protect press freedom? What is the role of the media in promoting democracy? What is the role of new media?

To set the stage for discussion, participants largely agreed upon potential for growth: Africa has one of the largest markets of mobile phone use, and seven percent of global Internet users are African. However, though there have been positive developments for the media environment, according to Freedom House, only three percent of sub-Saharan Africa’s countries have a free press. There was broad consensus among participants about the challenges that face Africa’s media environment, and were identified as:

  1. Media has not been seen as a critical sector to the emerging democratic and developmental state in Africa;
  2. Africa is replete of cases of open violence, torture and intimidation of journalists and media workers. However, attempts to investigate them and bring to justice those deemed culpable for violations have been lackluster at best;
  3. Most states keep laws and regulatory practices that unduly limit freedom of expression, media freedom and access to information;
  4. Poor working conditions of journalists and media workers in most of the countries particularly women;
  5. Most countries, except Eritrea, have a form of liberalized media but a veneer of private media is not a guarantee of independence, pluralism and diversity;
  6. Low capacity within most media  across the continent to report effectively on developmental issues;
  7. There is under representation of women as managers, workers, sources of information in most traditional media (print and electronic media).
  8. ***The penetration of accessible and affordable internet and mobile telephony continues to be hampered because most states have left it into the hands of private actors and not developed as a public good.

The media group will continue to discuss these challenges and create a set of recommendations that will be addressed in a public panel discussion on August 6 in Washington on Wednesday. Though the day-long conference is sold out, each session will be livestreamed.


[***This was added on August 6.]

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Posted in Africa, Impact and Evaluation, Sustainability

Russia’s Citizen Journalists

Citizen journalists played a key role in discovering evidence related to the recent Malaysia Airlines plane crash in Ukraine. Sleuths posted images of what was purported to be a missile launcher near the crash site, and fellow netizens tracked down corroborating images and information. Similar instances have helped to contribute to intelligence on the conflict in Ukraine.

In Russia, citizen journalists often act as alternative information sources to the state-controlled media outlets. These individuals expose important issues and coordinate with others to bring about change in their communities. According to a 2012 report, about 60 percent of Russians are Internet users, and Russia ranks third worldwide for social media users as 86 percent of its Internet users are on social media sites. Citizen journalists distribute eyewitness accounts and graphics from events as they happen, such as the Moscow metro bombing in 2010.

The Internet has become another public sphere for Russians, where relatively greater freedom of expression makes civic participation less risky. Public discussion of important issues occurs in an online environment with less polarization than in the United States and where many bloggers try to approach political topics objectively. This promotes an open forum with diverse views represented. Bloggers such as Alexei Navalny root out government corruption, and top political videos on YouTube cover transparency and government abuses. Bloggers keep an eye on the government online, where information about election violations and climate change can spread widely and gain traction in state media and public discourse.

Blogging platforms such as LiveJournal have been used to mobilize huge groups of people to action on specific problems. The Anti-Seliger protest was organized online as an alternative to a protest by Nashi, a pro-Putin youth movement. A report by Harvard’s Berkman Center showed these online movements have clear goals and the dedication to reach them. In contrast, pro-government bloggers do not have an organized following, though they do have a strong Twitter presence.

Citizen journalists are facing increasing scrutiny of their online activities. The bloggers law, which went into effect August 1, requires bloggers with more than 3000 daily readers to register with the government, allowing the authorities to target particular dissidents. This adds to the growing list of legal barriers and manufactured criminal charges against online activists. Alexei Dymovsky, a former police officer, posted a video to YouTube decrying the corruption in the police forces, only to be fired and receive threats on his life. Blogging sites have faced distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks, which overwhelm servers and can make sites inaccessible for days. These attacks have occurred during protests and shortly before the 2011 elections, preventing information about elections violations from spreading.

There are several ways to equip Russia’s citizen journalists to take on these challenges. Verification is increasingly important and easier to do with a wide variety of online tools. This enhances the credibility of these sites as alternatives to state media, which succeed due to their appearance of professionalism. It is vital to teach citizen journalists about information security, especially when they are covering sensitive issues such as corruption. With these skills, citizen journalists can produce high-quality work and continue to help their communities in a meaningful way.

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Posted in Europe and Eurasia, Impact and Evaluation

Uruguay’s Media Reform Success Story

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Edison Lanza (Inter-American Commission on Human Rights)

On the eve of his appointment as the new Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Uruguayan lawyer, journalist and director of CAinfo, Edison Lanza, visited CIMA to discuss the success of Uruguay’s media reform efforts in a region plagued by little regulation and limited respect for freedom of expression and independent media.

In the 30 years since its emergence from military dictatorship in 1984, Uruguay has quietly become something of a poster child for democratic reform in Latin America, and its record on media is no exception.

Consistently ranked at the top of the region by the major media freedom indices for the past decade, Uruguay has created an increasingly supportive environment for media through the passage of reforms targeting community radio, libel laws, and freedom of information, as well as pending legislation on broadcast licensing and regulation.

Uruguay has set itself apart from much of its neighborhood according to Freedom House’s 2014 Freedom of the Press Map.

In a country run by a military regime up until the mid-1980s, how was the media environment transformed in such a profound way, whereas many of its neighbors have languished in the yellows and purples of the Freedom House 2014 Press Freedom Map? Although the laws themselves warrant discussion as models for the region, too little attention is paid to the way in which these laws came to fruition.

Lanza credits Uruguay’s improved media environment to the formation of broad-based civil society coalitions in the 1990s. The coalitions, sometimes encompassing up to 30 diverse organizations each, leveraged the technical expertise of their members and focused on specific media issues such as freedom of expression or community radio where they could galvanize the most public support. Perhaps more crucially, the coalitions conducted strategic outreach to members of the national general assembly. Since the enabling environment for media necessitates political support, cultivating political allies is key to the success of any reform movement.

However, forming political alliances can be a persistent challenge for media reform advocates, according to Lanza. “The problem is on both sides, civil society and government, but we tried to convinced people that all sectors should be involved in media reform. But it can be hard to have a constructive dialogue.”

In Uruguay, media coalitions succeeded early on in finding political support among left-wing politicians in the opposition that were particularly sensitive to human rights issues and saw media and freedom of expression as part of that effort. These political allies provided a strong voice within Uruguay’s lawmaking body and allowed media reform bills to be authored, introduced, and advocated for from within the political system even if they stood little chance of passing.

In 2005, after years of sustained efforts, media reform advocates like Lanza had their golden political opportunity with the emergence of the left-wing Broad Front coalition in the national assembly. Their political allies in congress now had real political clout to pursue reform. Only a few years later, Uruguay would pass landmark laws on community radio, libel, and freedom of information. “When the [Broad Front] came to power, we were able to say, ok now this is your chance to pass the reforms you have been talking about for years.”

In a recent post on The Source, author Richard Winfield of the International Senior Lawyers Project strongly argues in favor of focusing more media development interventions on helping to shape the enabling environment for media. Indeed, donors and implementers should look to support indigenous movements like the one described in Uruguay to create an enabling environment for media. This means supporting coalition-building among domestic organizations, providing needed technical assistance and understanding the political realities in the country in order to build sufficient political institutional support. The Uruguayan example demonstrates that organized, collective, and sustained support for media reform can succeed. International media development actors, especially donors and implementers, must find a way to support these efforts.

*Thank you to Silvio Waisbord of the George Washington University for his contribution to this post. Dr. Waisbord has written extensively about “media movements” in Uruguay, as well as other media issues in Latin America. Read more in his article “The pragmatic politics of media reform: Media movements and coalition-building in Latin America”.

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Posted in General, Latin American and the Caribbean, Sustainability