IREX Organizes Middle East Conference on Development of Independent Media
- Eighteen Arab Media Managers to be selected for a six-week fellowship in the United States
- MENA MEDIA TV Production Fund: Small Grants Available to Arab TV Companies to Produce Local Content
- MENA MEDIA Emerging Leaders Fellowship: Twelve mid-career Arab media professionals to win a three-month fellowship in the United States
- Grants available to Arab TV companies to produce local content
IREX recently organized and hosted a State Department Middle East Partnership Initiative and USAID-funded workshop, “Strategies for Sustainable Media Development for the Middle East and North Africa,” in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (UAE). The workshop brought together media professionals and donor representatives from Algeria, Denmark, Egypt, France, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, the United States, West Bank, and Yemen to discuss the issues affecting the development of independent media in the region, approaches to developing independent media, and ways in which donors and regional media professionals can best work together to pursue the development of independent media. Attendees included publishers, broadcast executives, editors, journalists, directors from media development NGOs, and media and civil society advisors from donor agencies.
The Honorable Michelle Sison, US ambassador to the UAE, opened the conference by stressing the importance of free media and the United States’ willingness to provide support to political, economic, and social reforms. She underscored that reform ultimately must come from within the region itself. Participants also had the opportunity to meet the UAE Minister of Information, His Highness Sheikh Abdallah Ben Zayed AlNahyan.
Mark Whitehouse, director of IREX’s Media Development Division, laid the groundwork for the conference by discussing a strategic approach to media development in the region based on a paper by IREX senior media advisor Drusilla Menaker and on the IREX Media Sustainability Index. Whitehouse stressed that media should be viewed as a system with interrelated components: media must be financially viable and offer professional journalism, media laws must support the rights of journalists and media businesses, local institutions must support professionalism and advocate for the rights of media, etc. He also stressed that donors and implementers must work in true partnership with local media professionals, support the capacity of the local actors and not that of international organizations, and provide a sustained commitment to a project and avoid leaving too soon or spreading resources to thinly.
Workshop sessions over the next two days focused on specific aspects of media in the region: the needs and state of the journalism profession; media management and business development; media law; and the state and needs of the print, Internet, and broadcast communities. On the basis of these sessions, participants provided the following recommendations to donors and implementers on areas needing particular attention, methods to effect change, and methods of partnership:
* Programs must consider differences between and within regions, with consideration given to the appropriate balance between country-specific and regional approaches.
* Donors should demonstrate a long-term and comprehensive commitment to projects; multiyear and adequately funded programs are preferred and are more likely to succeed.
* Projects should in all respects support the development of local capacity.
* International donors and implementers must work in true partnership with Middle Eastern professionals and institutions, and donors must cooperate with each other.
* Gender issues need to be taken into account in all programs.
* Assistance projects should treat media as a system, realizing that professionalism, management, media law, and institutions are interdependent.
* Media assistance must be coupled with political support for significant change to occur.
To see more about IREX activities in the Middle East and North Africa, please see here.