On the Media

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On the Media: The Globe rolls out red carpet for documentary film

Original article found on: Poynter

Published Oct. 24, 2014 1:25 pm

This year, editors at The Boston Globe noticed that they shared something important with Hollywood’s biggest night: three directors, all trained at nearby Harvard University, each got Oscar nods for documentary filmmaking.

That got the paper’s attention. Globe editors had known for awhile that New England was a hotbed for documentarians, with big names like Ken Burns and Errol Morris calling the region home. The arts staff, under film editor Janice Page, had long discussed expanding the paper’s coverage of documentary filmmaking; now they had a newspeg.

Now, a few months later, The Boston Globe is rolling out a red carpet of its own for the region’s filmmakers and cinephiles. On Thursday, the paper announced GlobeDocs, a bid to celebrate the city’s nonfiction film scene. The initiative, headed up by Page, will include a series of free screenings (at least one every month) at independent theaters throughout Boston that will include panel discussions with filmmakers and industry experts. The paper is currently working to identify advertisers to sponsor the screenings, said Boston Globe CEO Mike Sheehan.

In an effort to become a hub for the film community, The Globe is also planning to put on a film festival sometime in 2015 and has begun a fund “to support up-and-coming filmmakers,” according to a release announcing GlobeDocs.

In the weeks leading up to Thursday’s announcement, the paper was already beefing up its documentary coverage. Earlier this month, The Globe began devoting a full page of its Sunday arts section to nonfiction film. The paper brought aboard Peter Keough, the former film editor of the now-defunct Boston Phoenix, to anchor the section; he writes a weekly roundup of the region’s documentary news called “Doc Talk” and asks a prominent movie-lover for recommendations in a feature called “Documania.”

Close watchers of The Globe will notice this isn’t the first time the paper has invested in specialized coverage of the city. This year, the paper rolled out two standalone sites — BetaBoston and Crux — to chronicle the startup and Catholic communities, respectively. In June, the paper added a Friday print section, “Capital,” dedicated exclusively to politics coverage. And there will likely be more specialized verticals to follow, Sheehan said.

And as with the other new initiatives, The Globe is planning to kick off GlobeDocs with a live event — in this case, a screening of “The Irish Pub,” featuring a discussion with director Alex Fegan moderated by Globe columnist Kevin Cullen. This echoes other launch events held for verticals like Crux and Capital.

The business thinking behind these live meetups — from next year’s film festival to events the paper’s has been putting on for years — is to position The Globe to become a convener of the community in addition to its chronicler, Sheehan said. The events, which build and showcase the verticals’ respective audiences, have the potential to indirectly drive revenue by making them more attractive to advertisers.

“Newspapers were traditionally experienced in someone’s hand, something someone read,” Sheehan said. “At their best today, newspapers are something that bring people together.”

Original article found on: Poynter

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On the Media: Controlled chaos – As journalism and documentary film converge in digital, what lessons can they share?

Original article found on: NiemanLab

By LIAM ANDREW Oct. 29, 2014

Old and new media types from journalism, documentary, and technology backgrounds gathered at MIT to share practices and discuss mutual concerns.
Documentary film and journalism are, in many ways, rooted in the same traditions. Though focus on narrative often differentiates film from traditional journalism, it helps to remember that the earliest films were straightforward recordings of real life, such as trains pulling into stations.

Decades after L’arrivée d’un train en gare de La Ciotat, journalists like Edward R. Murrow made activist films that helped shape the documentary’s focus on social issues, while 1960s direct cinema filmmakers played with a journalistic sense of objectivity and realism.

Today, more and more documentaries are finding news publishers to be the ideal platforms for their work — especially interactive documentaries, like those mapped by Docubase. Meanwhile, journalism schools increasingly offer courses in software development and multimedia production. As both practices migrate into the digital space, they have a lot to learn from one another.

odlmitlogoTo further explore this convergence, earlier this month MIT’s Open Documentary Lab and the MacArthur Foundation hosted a daylong event called “The New Reality.”1 Participants represented old stalwarts with large audiences like The New York Times, The Guardian, and Frontline, younger upstarts like Vox and Storyful, documentary fixtures from Tribeca and Sundance, and a range of academics studying digital journalism and interactive media. The goal was to explore the synergies and fissures at the crossroads of interactive documentary and digital journalism; here’s a brief overview of what was discussed, what remains unsolved, and what went unsaid.

The forms and platforms are converging
Journalists and filmmakers are increasingly using the same tools to tell stories, and they’re releasing them on the same platforms. Two panels at “The New Reality” — “Documentary Forms and Processes” and “Technologies in a Changing Media Landscape” — focused on these issues. Recurring examples of this technical merging were the many docs released by news entities, such as Katerina Cizek’s Highrise project produced by the National Film Board of Canada and published with the Times.

News organizations already have a built-in audience with stakes in social issues, an ideal springboard for a documentary filmmaker. In addition, entities like the Times and the Guardian have rich archives and technological firepower, allowing filmmakers to continue to push the boundaries of their form.

At the outset, Frontline’s Raney Aronson, a panelist, asked when a documentary should be interactive instead of linear. Panelists explored the tension between immersion and play, and the balance of experimentation with cohesion; web-native documentaries can take endless forms, each with endless capacity, but nobody wants to see a sprawling, sloppy product. The interactive form often requires the viewer to be an active and interested participant in the topic.

Cizek mentioned her favorite line, “I came for the technology, I stayed for the story,” but many storytellers are looking for a broader audience than activists and doc enthusiasts.

The unique form of each interactive doc also makes critical comparison and audience literacy difficult. Most agreed that projects should start with the story and build the form around it, but templates can serve as shortcuts to start developing a language for interactive features. Gabriel Dance of The Marshall Project called each story “a beautiful delicate flower…there is no template, there is no tool,” and AIR’s Sue Schardt stressed that it’s important to find the language before the funding models.

But too much experimentation may also keep the field from legitimizing. Some documentaries, like 18 Days in Egypt or Rachel Falcone and Michael Premo‘s Sandy Storyline, are about process and participation too; how can we judge these works critically? How will they be assessed for potential funding? And do they have a place in the newsroom, as CUNY’s new social journalism master’s degree might suggest?

There was also more practical discussion around technologies and platforms, and the challenge of balancing readymade templates and customized tools and code. Standardizing forms would also mean standardizing technologies and frameworks, which would streamline the process and reduce costs, but risk some of the creative experimentation. For now, storytellers are limited by the small screens of mobile devices and minimal capacity for interaction; the most exciting content-sharing platforms are too complex for mass audiences and commercial viability. Having conceded to Facebook and YouTube as the primary interaction and communication platforms, the trick might be to build tools that creatively remix them, though APIs may be unstable and engineers would end up taking on editorial responsibilities.

Audiences, participants, and publics are in transition
Journalists and documentarians have always cared about the impact of their work, but now they can see, measure, and interact with it. Digital metrics have changed what constitutes a successful project, which increasingly contributes to choices made by the creators (and some argued that it certainly should). Moreover, the web has created new opportunities for crowdsourced and participatory works — journalists use their audience to land scoops, source data, and fund projects. At MIT, the depth of potential audience interaction was discussed on panels such as “Rethinking Participation: What Can We Learn from Documentaries?” and “Audience Engagement & Impact.”

But “the audience” and “the public” are two very different groups, as the Times’ Lexi Mainland pointed out. Times readers represent a limited demographic, and will only be able to contribute to a small subset of the paper’s journalism; this is even more true for the niche audiences at small startups and trade journals. Tapping into the web’s communication channels without falling into the audience bubble will be crucial as storytellers hunt for stories worth telling, and presenting them compellingly.

Some panelists claimed to have a clear picture of their audience, but none have a solid grasp on impact. This is unsurprising, given that even the audience turns out to be slippery — public institutions are there to serve the public, of course, but their viewership and donors must be a priority. Older demographics still reach for TV and traditional forms, while digital and interactive viewers will skew younger. We can measure some behaviors, but they’re continuously shifting. For example, panelist Kamal Sinclair of Sundance pointed out that, while nobody expected millennials to sit and watch a 45-minute video on mobile, Vice has proven that they will.

What does that mean for the definition of a “successful” video project, as compared to a few years ago? Panelist and Rutgers professor Philip Napoli suggested that time spent was a dangerous measure of quality, too, calling attention “the last bottleneck” for the media world. There was general agreement that while metrics for documentary skew towards qualitative and personal impact measurement, journalism skews more towards the quantitative and aggregative. A blurring of these lines seems healthy as the forms collide.

Another concern around audience was the necessity of closing the feedback loop with creators. Participant and USC professor Henry Jenkins championed networked “circulation” over traditional top-down “distribution,” saying it would afford a better afterlife to projects and inform newsroom processes and practices.

The traditions, standards, and institutions remain divergent
Finally, a panel called “Journalistic Standards in Transition” focused on the balance between aesthetics and ethics in documentary and in journalism. For better or worse, journalism is a more codified institution than documentary, with its own degrees and standards about what journalism “is” or should be. Documentary is a more ramshackle affair, with its share of festivals and awards but less unified and established conventions.

The panel started with Aronson asking panelists to define journalism, which set the tone for complex questions: how do you deal with bias or media with an agenda, like an ISIS propaganda video? How many cameras need to be present to “verify” an event? Is it wrong for journalists to manipulate footage, even to add sound effects or music?

The current trend towards advocacy journalism can borrow ideas from documentary, but Jason Spingarn-Koff of the Times’ Op-Docs reiterated the need for fact-checking in order to maintain journalistic rigor. “We shouldn’t make everyone adhere to being journalists, but we do have journalistic standards at the Times,” he says.

But outside the Times, the line grows ever blurrier — there is no journalism, only “acts of journalism,” as Jeff Howe said, reiterating a line of Jay Rosen’s. Some journalistic outfits, like the Center for Investigative Reporting, are making graphic novels and rap videos; Ariane Wu asked when this stopped being journalism and became something more like art. On the one hand, this is a question of semantics, but on the other hand, the question has major consequences for how nonfiction video and interactive projects get made, structured and funded.

Another major differenceC9B80531-DF6B-4262-9788-BE27D63D6C4E is that, while docs can take years to create, news is inherently fast-paced. Longform works emerge between these time scales, of course, and can be crucial for bringing the public’s attention to complex story arcs; this type of storytelling helps the audience place newsworthy events in the context of larger historical phenomena. Interactive features might have form and marketing challenges, but they can play a crucial role in balancing the time scale of the news cycle.

What’s next — and what’s missing
While a few participants expressed relief at avoiding state-of-the-industry and revenue model discussions, such conversation was sometimes unavoidable. Beyond lamenting the lack of platform innovation in a crowded market, Larry Birnbaum of Narrative Science reminded attendees that advertisers lurk just around the corner of every new media innovation: there are people with much more money and much clearer goals who are eager for these tools and forms to be developed.

Looking further into the future, new platforms will mean new responsibilities for storytellers. Oculus Rift was cited as an example of a technology that raises the stakes, as do 3-D and tactile media. These platforms, like any others, have the potential to manipulate viewers and spread propaganda, but Birnbaum suggested that while computers can provide us with live data, immersive graphics and interactivity, they are still very far away from the higher-level field of complex storytelling.

Overall, “storytelling” was the word of the day. Participants preferred to self-identify as “storytellers” and “story-makers” rather than the platform-stereotyped “journalist” or “filmmaker.” It’s also telling that while everyone wants to be a storyteller, no one wants to be maligned as a “content creator.”

On the other end of the spectrum, Cizek spoke of “the people formerly known as subjects,” a phrase that resonated with many. I can’t help but wonder, though, whether we haven’t replaced “subjects” with “users,” a term that comes from the tech industry, which has fashioned better techniques for understanding its audience than the journalism or media industries. There could have been, I think, more discussion of these terms and who owns their histories.

Caught between advertisers and aggregators, journalists are not as in control of their message as much as storytellers typically like to be. In the age of the attention economy, gaining eyeballs often means producing work that triggers an emotional response, new ground for traditionalists. Is this journalism or documentary? Birnbaum, and others, called it loosely controlled chaos.

“Live with it,” he said. “It’s a haphazard field.”

Original article found on: NiemanLab

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On the Media: Mozambique Election: citizen journalists keep politicians on their toes

Original article from: The Guardian

Supporters cheer for the Renamo opposition candidate Afonso Dhlakama at rally in Maputo. Photograph: Antonio Silva/EPA

Supporters cheer for the Renamo opposition candidate Afonso Dhlakama at rally in Maputo. Photograph: Antonio Silva/EPA

As Mozambique prepares to go to the polls for Wednesday’s presidential election, the ruling party Frelimo faces its first real political challenge since the country gained its independence from Portugal in 1975.

President Armando Guebuza must step down after his maximum two terms in office, and the campaign mounted by Renamo – Frelimo’s long-standing political rival – has resulted in a race to succeed him that has become too tight to call.

It has also been a race fraught with irregularities, which are being increasingly exposed by a small army of citizen journalists across the country.

Here are a few snapshots from various election campaigns in Mozambique, all from the last two months:

  • In Macomia, in northern Cabo Delgado province, a government Toyota Land Cruiser – covered in posters of the ruling party, Frelimo – is used to distribute campaign material. This is illegal. Click! A reporter takes a picture and Instagrams it to the Centre for Public Integrity (CIP) in Maputo.
  • In Machava, Matola, near Maputo, a police station is plastered with Frelimo posters. Neighbours alert the election reporter. He checks, clicks, sends, and CIP posts it in its online election newsletter.
  • On 24 September 2014, in Chibuto, Gaza province, Frelimo supporters attack the caravan of the opposition Democratic Movement of Mozambique (MDM) presidential candidate Daviz Simango with stones and bottles while the police watch. Citizen reporters documented the hour-long battle and later checked if any arrests had been made. None were made.

These stories have been published on the CIP website faster than any other news outlet. Media pickup is immediate. The Constitutional Council and electoral authorities read it. In many ways, the electoral reporting project sets the media agenda.

Independent journalism

With 150 reporters, at least one in each of Mozambique’s 143 electoral districts, CIP’s on-the-ground coverage maps out flash points and trends. The reporting has exposed misuses of state bureaucracy and resources to promote the ruling party.

The project, led by CIP researcherJoseph Hanlon, started during the 2013 municipal elections, in collaboration with the Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa (EISA).

From that day in 2013, it has proved its value. For example, long before the electoral commission received official complaints, correspondents across the country reported that many of the printers sent to polling stations were not working. In response, the commission quickly told the South African supplier to solve the problem.

A policeman guards election kits at a warehouse in Maputo. Photograph: Gianluigi Guercia/AFP/Getty Images

A policeman guards election kits at a warehouse in Maputo. Photograph: Gianluigi Guercia/AFP/Getty Images

And when the official vote count in Gurue in the north appeared suspiciously different from the parallel counting of the electoral observatory, the opposition complained, and the CIP’s election bulletin circulated both tallies. This boosted both the complaint’s credibility, and led the Constitutional Council to order a new poll, which the opposition party, MDM, eventually won.

Although many of the reporters work for local papers and community radio stations, and have some experience of collecting information, many lack formal journalistic training.

Mozambican media outlets, although lively, are often aligned to political parties or act a platform for the publisher’s views. Independent journalism, based on facts and research, not on opinion, is scarce. In 2013, CIP and EISA trained its reporters in electoral law and the basic rules of journalism – accuracy, confirmation, and facts.

Equipped with a user-friendly manual written by Hanlon, their reporters learned to spot irregularities, to identify sources (although CIP may protect their identity), check facts and ignore rumour.

Hanlon sums it up: “We hammer into the heads of all our journalists that allegations must be backed up. Perhaps the hardest for Mozambican journalists is the rule of information, not rhetoric. Let the facts speak for themselves. And don’t just report the problems, report normality and success.”

A Renamo supporter takes part in a motorcade campaign rally on 11 October 2014 in Maputo. Photograph: Gianluigi Guercia/AFP/Getty Images

A Renamo supporter takes part in a motorcade campaign rally on 11 October 2014 in Maputo. Photograph: Gianluigi Guercia/AFP/Getty Images

Encouraging free and fair elections

Back in Maputo, the CIP team scrutinises the information before publishing it, earning trust amongst its many readers.

In rural Mozambique, where there is little media presence, government employees and police chiefs often run their districts like fiefdoms. In 2013, for example, an administrator – on a whim and without a court order – instructed police to padlock the local community radio station because it had reported on local corruption. Assuming that “Maputo will never know and people here are docile”, the electoral reporting project is sending a message to local authorities they are being watched, and that the nation will know about irregularities. This year, reporters noted fewer government cars being used openly by Frelimo than in 2013.

The election in 2013 was tight. Renamo boycotted it, MDM received 40% of the total vote, won two cities in the first round (Beira and Quelimane) and two after flawed counts and new elections (Nampula and Gurue). In Maputo and Matola, usually Frelimo strongholds, MDM won over 42% of the vote.

However, 2014 is a different game: this year, Renamo is participating, which splits the opposition and could make results even more contested.

The CIPs reporting project is part of a broader effort by civil society to ensure free and fair elections, and disrupt the apathy creeping into the country’s voting population since the first democratic polls in 1994. Less than half of eligible voters voted in 2013.

Those that do should at least know their vote is not being tampered with, and that the election has been fair. In a country with few safeguards in place, active citizen reporting is proving to be one of the most effective ways to guarantee this.

Original article can be found on: The Guardian

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On the Media, Afghanistan: Tech Rising – The Influence of Social Media and New Technologies in Afghanistan’s Democracy

Original article on: United States Institute of Peace

 

The U.S. Institute of Peace invites you to join a discussion on the evolving role of media and new technologies in Afghanistan’s democratic process. Experts from Afghanistan will discuss how new media and technology tools influenced the recent elections and how they can be used to promote better governance in the country.

Kabul Pilot Workshop-During Practice: Female trainer is directing the trainees about making social media account on facebook. Photo Credit: Flickr/Impassion Afghanistan

Since the fall of the Taliban regime in 2001, the use of social media and mobile technology has proliferated in Afghanistan and the impact on the democratic process has been astounding. There are now four telecom companies offering 3G services, boosting internet access through mobile broadband. In the most recent presidential election, all candidates used Facebook, and most had Ttwitter accounts. Social media allowed political candidates unprecedented access to young Afghans who make up 68%of the voting bloc. Mobile phone penetration is at 89% and allowed many observers to capture episodes of fraud, reducing corruption during the elections.

On Thursday October 16, USIP will host an event that will explore the evolving role of media, technology and data use in Afghanistan’s democratic process, particularly elections. Experts will discuss these topics and share important findings from a report summarizing community concerns in seven provinces around the 2014 elections and beyond.

Join the conversation on Twitter with #AFGNext.

 

Original article can be found at: United States Institute of Peace

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On the Media, Development: MDIF’s Impact Dashboard – A Case Study in Measuring MediaDev

Original article found on: The Source

Posted on September 30, 2014 by Mark Nelson

 

When it comes to measuring success or failure, media developers face many of the same challenges as the rest of the international development community.

Do you measure inputs, such as the amount of money that is invested in media development initiatives? Or do you track outcomes from projects—the number of people trained or the knowledge that they gained from training? Should we be looking at organizational performance of media enterprises, such as the increase in audience or reach, or their profit and loss accounts? Or should we be looking at broader impacts on society in terms of poverty reduction, improved governance or overall peace and economic growth that an independent media can help to achieve?

One creative attempt at answering thImpact dashboardese questions is the just-released Impact Dashboard 2014 from the Media Development Investment Fund. This document is a must-read for media developers because of the clear and graphic way that MDIF has tracked the results of its work.

MDIF is one of the most interesting and creative creatures of the media development field—an organization that makes loans and equity investments in, and offers technical support to promising media enterprises in developing countries. As such, it is already addressing one of the higher-level possible outcomes of media development, sustainable media enterprises. Compared with some of the early attempts at addressing problems in the media sector by simply training journalists, it is already yards ahead.

MDIF is also ahead in the results game. It looks at change at several levels, and it attempts to address the fundamental question of why high quality, independent media matters to developing societies. MDIF’s results framework measures its outputs, in terms of loans, equity investments and technical assistance; it looks at client outputs in terms of quality reporting and content production; and it suggests results at the societal level in terms of impact on reducing corruption and improving accountability.

MDIF’s solution to the results question mirrors closely the similar work carried out under the auspices of the Learning Network on Capacity Development , which is a network of development practitioners that has contributed to the last three global accords on aid effectiveness. LenCD has worked to build a stronger understanding of capacity development as more than just outputs—not just training and technical assistance—but a broader set of activities and focus on higher level results. These results can be tracked and measured at multiple levels. I have summarized one way of looking at these levels of capacity development outcomes in the diagram below.

MDIF’s Impact Dashboard is an important reminder about the importance of articulating the results of media development work. As the international community gears up for a new set of international development goals to replace the Millennium Development Goals that expire next year, initiatives such as this one can help us make the case that media development can be measured, that money spent on media development is well used, and that high quality independent media really matters for developing societies.

 

Original article can be read at: The Source

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On the Media: Conference Emphasizes the Important Role Public Broadcasting Plays in a Democracy

Original article can be read online at Internews.

Kyrgyzstan is the first and only country in the Central Asian region to establish a public service broadcaster, a publically-funded TV and radio company whose broadcasting serves the public interest, aiming to provide a sense of national community while fulfilling the programming needs of a broad range of constituencies.

Internews with the support of USAID has been working with OTRK, the country’s former state-owned broadcaster, since 2012 to help it transition fully into the public service broadcasting model. In a testament to how far OTRK has come since then, its news programs overtook those of the Russian channel ORT as the most-watched newscasts in Kyrgyzstan in 2013.

Dunja Mijatovic, OSCE’s Representative on Freedom of the Media, emphasized the important role public broadcasting plays in a country like Kyrgyzstan. “A democratic state cannot exist without public broadcasting,” said Mijatovic at an international conference on best practices in public broadcasting that the OSCE and Internews convened in Bishkek on May 22-23. “It has a positive influence on the citizens and democracy of the state because it is objective and comes from authentic sources of information.”

The conference brought together more than 70 experts and media representatives from all over Central Asia and Europe to discuss various models of public service broadcasting, the influence of media freedoms on the democratic development of Kyrgyzstan, and how public broadcasters perform an important role in that process.

In addition to OTRK’s director, representatives from public broadcasting companies in Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Moldova, and Mongolia also presented best practices and lessons learned from their experiences transitioning state-controlled broadcasters into public media companies. Topics of discussion ranged from network financing and management to program production and editorial independence. Attendees came from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan, including government officials, media professionals, academics, and NGO representatives.

The conference showcased OTRK as a model for the region of how a state-run media outlet can reinvent itself into a social platform tailored for the country’s citizens. It also demonstrated the potential that public broadcasting holds for facilitating positive change in society. As Natalia Nikitenko, a member of the Kyrgyz Parliament, stated about this effort, “The establishment of the public service broadcaster in Kyrgyzstan was a progressive step for our country. Everyone has the right to access public information and the expectations on further development of the PSB are quite high.”

The changes OTRK has made so far have helped the broadcaster communicate more closely with and receive feedback from its audience, allowing the station to better tailor its programming to meet audience preferences. Audience surveys, town hall meetings, and focus groups have all been used to gather these preferences. OTRK is also learning from the experiences of colleagues from public broadcasters in other countries (including Germany, Austria, Slovenia, Estonia, Lithuania, Georgia, and Moldova) in order to strengthen the overall quality of their programming and reporting.

Read the original article online at Internews.

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On the media: Lyon Declaration: Help make access to information a UN development priority

Original article can be found on ifex.

The International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA) has been lobbying the United Nations to include access to information in the official Agenda for the Post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Just this week at the 80th Annual World Library and Information Congress in Lyon, France, IFLA released the following official statement outlining why access to information is essential to the healthy, sustainable development of any society.

British Prime Minister David Cameron and Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, members of the United Nations High-Level Panel on Global Sustainability, met in New York in May 2013 to discuss the Post-2015 Development Agenda

British Prime Minister David Cameron and Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, members of the United Nations High-Level Panel on Global Sustainability, met in New York in May 2013 to discuss the Post-2015 Development Agenda Photo Credit: REUTERS/Richard Drew/Pool

18 August 2014

IFEX members and partners urge the United Nations High-Level Panel on Global Sustainability to include Access to Information in the Agenda for the Post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals

The Lyon Declaration on Access to Information and Development of August 2014 was written in English. The wording of the English version shall prevail.

The United Nations is negotiating a new development agenda to succeed the Millennium Development Goals. The agenda will guide all countries on approaches to improving people’s lives, and outline a new set of goals to be reached during the period 2016-2030.

We, the undersigned, believe that increasing access to information and knowledge across society, assisted by the availability of information and communications technologies (ICTs), supports sustainable development and improves people’s lives.

We therefore call upon the Member States of the United Nations to make an international commitment to use the post-2015 development agenda to ensure that everyone has access to, and is able to understand, use and share the information that is necessary to promote sustainable development and democratic societies.

Principles
Sustainable development seeks to ensure the long-term socio-economic prosperity and well-being of people everywhere. The ability of governments, parliamentarians, local authorities, local communities, civil society, the private sector and individuals to make informed decisions is essential to achieving it.
In this context, a right to information would be transformational. Access to information supports development by empowering people, especially marginalised people and those living in poverty, to:
• Exercise their civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights.
• Be economically active, productive and innovative.
• Learn and apply new skills.
• Enrich cultural identity and expression.
• Take part in decision-making and participate in an active and engaged civil society.
• Create community-based solutions to development challenges.
• Ensure accountability, transparency, good governance, participation and empowerment.
• Measure progress on public and private commitments on sustainable development.

Declaration
In accordance with the findings of the High Level Panel on the Post–2015 Development Agenda, the post-2015 consultations of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Open Working Group Focus Area Report, all of which identified the crucial role of access to information in supporting development, we, the undersigned, recognise that:

1. Poverty is multidimensional, and progress in eradicating poverty is linked to ensuring sustainable development across a variety of areas.

2. Sustainable development must take place in a human-rights based framework, where:
a) Inequality is reduced by the empowerment, education and inclusion of marginalized groups, including women, indigenous peoples, minorities, migrants, refugees, persons with disabilities, older persons, children and youth.
b) Gender equality, along with full social, economic and political engagement, can be significantly enhanced by empowering women and girls through equitable access to education.
c) Dignity and autonomy can be strengthened by ensuring access to employment and decent jobs for all.
d) Equitable access to information, freedom of expression, freedom of association and assembly, and privacy are promoted, protected and respected as being central to an individual’s independence.
e) Public participation of all is ensured to allow them to take ownership of change needed to improve their lives.

3. Increased access to information and knowledge, underpinned by universal literacy, is an essential pillar of sustainable development. Greater availability of quality information and data and the involvement of communities in its creation will provide a fuller, more transparent allocation of resources.

4. Information intermediaries such as libraries, archives, civil society organisations (CSOs), community leaders and the media have the skills and resources to help governments, institutions and individuals communicate, organize, structure and understand data that is critical to development. They can do this by:

a) Providing information on basic rights and entitlements, public services, environment, health, education, work opportunities, and public expenditure that supports local communities and people to guide their own development.
b) Identifying and focusing attention on relevant and pressing needs and problems within a population.
c) Connecting stakeholders across regional, cultural and other barriers to facilitate communication and the exchange of development solutions that could be scaled for greater impact.
d) Preserving and ensuring ongoing access to cultural heritage, government records and information by the public, through the stewardship of national libraries and archives and other public heritage institutions.
e) Providing public forums and space for wider civil society participation and engagement in decision-making.
f) Offering training and skills to help people access and understand the information and services most helpful to them.

5. Improved ICT infrastructure can be used to expand communications, speed up the delivery of services and provide access to crucial information particularly in remote communities. Libraries and other information intermediaries can use ICTs to bridge the gap between national policy and local implementation to ensure that the benefits of development reach all communities.

6. We, the undersigned, therefore call on Member States of the United Nations to acknowledge that access to information, and the skills to use it effectively, are required for sustainable development, and ensure that this is recognised in the post-2015 development agenda by:
a) Acknowledging the public’s right to access information and data, while respecting the right to individual privacy.
b) Recognising the important role of local authorities, information intermediaries and infrastructure such as ICTs and an open Internet as a means of implementation.
c) Adopting policy, standards and legislation to ensure the continued funding, integrity, preservation and provision of information by governments, and access by people.
d) Developing targets and indicators that enable measurement of the impact of access to information and data and reporting on progress during each year of the goals in a Development and Access to Information (DA2I) report.

Signed,

ActiveWatch – Media Monitoring Agency
Adil Soz – International Foundation for Protection of Freedom of Speech
Afghanistan Journalists Center
Africa Freedom of Information Centre
Arabic Network for Human Rights Information
ARTICLE 19
Association of Caribbean Media Workers
Bahrain Center for Human Rights
Bytes for All
Cambodian Center for Human Rights
Canadian Journalists for Free Expression
Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility
Committee to Protect Journalists
Derechos Digitales
Electronic Frontier Foundation
Foro de Periodismo Argentino
Freedom Forum
Freedom House
Hungarian Civil Liberties Union
Index on Censorship
Initiative for Freedom of Expression – Turkey
Institute for the Studies on Free Flow of Information
Institute of Mass Information
International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions
Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance
Media Foundation for West Africa
Media Watch
Observatorio Latinoamericano para la Libertad de Expresión – OLA
Pacific Islands News Association
Pakistan Press Foundation
PEN International
Privacy International
Public Association “Journalists”
World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters – AMARC
Access√
Agenda21 for culture
Andaluza de Bibliotecarios
Association for Progressive Communications
Association of Libraries of Czech Universities (ALCU)
Association of European Research Libraries (LIBER)
Association of Librarians of France (ABF)
Beyond Access
Bibliothecarii Medicinae Fenniae (BMF)
Bibliotheques sans frontieres
Brazilian Institute of Information in Science and Technology – IBICT
Brill
Brunei Darussalam Library Association
CENL
CIVICUS
Collegium Artium
Communia International Association on the Public Domain
Conference of Southeast Asia Librarians (CONSAL)
Development Initiatives
Ecole nationale supérieure des sciences de l’information et des bibliothèques (ENSSIB)
Electronic Information for Libraries (EIFL)
European Association of Science Editors (EASE)
European Bureau of Library, Information and Documentation Associations (EBLIDA)
Federación Española de Asociaciones de Archiveros Bibliotecarios, Arqueólogos, Museólogos y Documentalistas (ANABAD-Aragón)
FrontlineSMS
Global Integrity
Global Partners Digital
Holy Spirit University of Kaslik
INDEX MURCIA
Indonesian Library Association
International Federation for Information Processing (IFIP)
International Federation of Journalists – Asia-Pacific
International Records Management Trust
Internet and Democracy Project
Internews
IP Justice
IREX – Civil Society, Education and Media Development
Kenya Human Rights Commission
Narva Central Library (Estonia)
Open Knowledge Foundation
Partnerships in Health Information (PHI)
Public Knowledge
Restless Development
SPARC
SPARC Europe
Standing Conference of Eastern, Central and Southern African Library and Information Associations (SCECSAL)
Te Rōpū Whakahau (National Association for Māori in Libraries and Information, New Zealand)
University of South Africa Library
Victoria University of Wellington Library
Vietnamese Library Association
Webster University
WorldPulse

Read the original article online at ifex.

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On the Media: Report: Journalism training in the Digital Era

by Rosemary D’Amour on The Source
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

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.

Read the original article online at The Source.

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On the Media: In Mexico City, journalists strive to become agents of change

by Steven Youngblood, director, Center for Global Peace Journalism

Despite the challenges, journalists can be agents of change.

This important and encouraging message was the most critical take-away from the symposium, “Journalism for Change”, held last week in Mexico City. Sponsored by the NGO Ashoka, the symposium gathered influential Mexican and Latin American journalists as well as other interested parties like the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ), Poynter Institute, Corresponsal de Paz (Peace Correspondent), and the Center for Global Peace Journalism at Park University.

One intriguing and unique example of journalism for change was presented by Molly Swenson of ryot.org. Ryot.org is a website that links news to action—it’s “what’s going on in the news and what you can do about it,” according to the site. For example, at the end of a story about the Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson, Missouri, readers can learn more, donate now, or get involved (by joining Swirl, an organization committed to cross-racial dialogue). Swenson told a roundtable discussion that Ryot doesn’t pretend to be objective, and that, in fact, it’s okay to not be objective as long as that bias is known up-front to the readers.

Another journalist for change at the symposium was Pablo Espinosa, director of the Columbian magazine Innovacion Social. Espinosa describes his magazine as taking an alternative viewpoint to most of the Colombian press that eschews sensationalism and offers more analysis and solutions-based reporting.
Of course, the practice of change journalism, and peace journalism, faces many obstacles both in Colombia and Mexico. Javier Garza, a newspaper editor and representative of ICFJ, told a symposium roundtable about the obstacles to responsible journalism posed by both economics and by violence in Mexico. He said the Mexican public suffers from “sensationalism fatigue” because of the onslaught of reporting about drug killings. One related, and chilling, scenario was discussed: Can murders become so commonplace that they cease to qualify as news?
A professor from Universidad Iberoamericano (UI) in Mexico City presented survey data that underscored the challenges that Garza introduced. In a UI survey of Mexican journalists, 50% reported having been threatened by criminals or politicians, 60% reported earning less than 10,000 pesos ($760) per month; and 40% said they work for at least two different media outlets in an attempt to make ends meet. The good news is that despite these problems, a majority of Mexican journalists see themselves as agents of change.
The symposium concluded on an optimistic note, as several break-out group participants pledged to unite to disseminate change-oriented stories and to continue to exchange ideas about how to leverage media for positive change.
This article can be read on the Peace and Collaborative Development Network.
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Check Out Michael Sheridan on TEDx! – Why Local Perspectives are Necessary for a Balanced Information Diet

Conn College Logo“We all have to demand an improvement in our news diet. A balanced diet that’s less self-centric, that includes more local perspectives, will really help us be better informed, and therefore, more effective citizens.”    

On April 13, Michael Sheridan, an alumnus of Connecticut College, spoke at TEDxConnecticutCollege about Community Supported Film’s experience bringing local perspectives from Afghanistan to the U.S. through documentary filmmaking. Michael’s talk, entitled “Transforming News and Views through Local Perspectives,” compares U.S. mainstream media coverage of Afghanistan with local Afghan stories to show the unbalanced state of the Western news diet. By highlighting this imbalance, Michael demonstrates a need for both perspectives in order to create sustainable solutions for ourselves and for Afghans. Watch Michael’s TEDx talk here and/or read the highlights below:

It becomes clear that news stories have the capacity to both help and harm people once you ask who is telling the story, why they are telling it, and how it influences the general public. In the case of mainstream media coverage of Afghanistan, which focuses on “war-centric” stories and stories that are most relatable to Americans, the Afghan perspective is lost, subsequently harming the Afghan people.

In his talk, Michael compares photos and videos from The New York Times and Frontline with videos produced through Community Supported Film’s trainings in Afghanistan to show the way in which the mainstream media’s perception of Afghan issues does not accurately reflect the daily problems that the Afghan people are facing. Instead of focusing on warfare and violence, the locally produced videos emphasize issues with water, illiteracy, and drug addiction. Michael states that more Afghans are killed by water issues than insurgents and that 87% of Afghans believe that men and women should have equal access to education. Those are shocking statistics for those who only see Afghans in Western media portrayed as violent and discriminatory towards women.

TEDx: On the Shoulders of Giants

“American reporters…and the American news industry [in general] are telling the story of our news in Afghanistan and not necessarily the news from Afghanistan.”

Through his TEDx talk, Michael Sheridan proves that telling the news from Afghanistan can only be accomplished through a balanced information diet of both mainstream and local perspectives, thereby highlighting the importance of the Community Supported Film mission.

 

TEDx events are locally organized gatherings held in the same format as the well-known TED talks. These events bring leading thinkers and doers together to share what they are most passionate about.

The theme of this year’s Connecticut College TEDx event was “On the Shoulders of Giants,” which highlighted the power of collaboration and the insights gained from a historical perspective.

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3 Innovations In Participative Journalism That Will Change The Media Industry

AshokaAshoka , Contributor

High Quality, Reliable and Cost-Effective International Reporting

Seasoned foreign correspondent Cristi Hegranes has watched as media companies have closed their foreign bureaus to save operating costs, thus limiting journalists’ access to diverse stories and sources and creating a narrow focus on high-profile cases of war and poverty. In response, she founded the Global Press Institute (GPI) to demonstrate how affordable, high quality, and diverse news can be produced by enabling communities to tell their own stories.

Hegranes is challenging the notion that only university-educated, professional journalists, who are connected to major publications, can produce quality content. GPI provides a rigorous six-month training, and then employs those who complete this training to write for the Global Press Journal. GPI has already syndicated stories to more than 25 major media outlets around the globe.

Is this model a standard that media companies can begin to adopt globally?

Access to Information

Sascha Meinrath believes the media can no longer operate effectively in a world where large portions of the population are disadvantaged by poor Internet access. “It’s a business model that just doesn’t work,” he said.

As director of X-Lab and the founder of the Open Technology Institute, Meinrath is tackling the issue of access by developing a mesh-wireless network that allows multiple communication paths to a single network, allowing users to directly connect with each other.

This network does not require a centrally located transmitter; it allows users to overcome both physical and technological obstacles. This solution is critical where there are barriers to freedom of the press, or where Internet access is controlled and monitored.

“The more inclusive we are, the more benefits accrue to everyone that is in that system,” Meinrath said. Could this be a solution for media outlets struggling to provide objective and balanced content in an oppressive regime? Will it lead to more open and transparent content sharing? Meinrath is optimistic.

Many new media platforms are being launched with financial backing from Silicon Valley’s top investors, but there are many more startup and alternative media platforms that are still struggling to get the funds to launch or sustain themselves in media markets that are highly controlled or regulated . Sasa Vucinic, a journalist and editor in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, recognized that any figure of authority or institution with power can set and skew the content agenda by creating a dependency on funding. This inhibits objective reporting and sharing of accurate information. In response, Vucinic co-founded the Media Development Loan Fund (MDLF)—a social investment fund that offers affordable financing to independent media outlets.

When a media venture is selected for support, it is guided through a process of management and connected to a network of other media outlets. Throughout this process, the fund ensures that all aspects of the media outlet are well managed and aligned with strategic goals. At the same time, the ultimate goal is to eliminate dependence on MDLF’s network for financial sustainability.

Herganes, Meinrath, and Vucinic have all developed their empathy skills so they can understand the needs of the new and emerging marketplaces in a rapidly changing world. They are seeing power shift from siloed tactics and strategies to collaborative and networked solutions. The old model of top-down information produced by elites has thwarted citizens who want to be actively engaged and connected to a global community, and who want to make sense of the change that is engulfing them.

It’s clear that no single innovation will ensure the future success of the media industry. It will take creative, flexible, inclusive and empathic problem-solvers who are working collaboratively to add value to a changing media environment. At the Deutsche Welle Global Media Forum on June 30- July 2 and at the Ashoka Globalizer, these 3 leading social entrepreneurs and manyother promising media innovations proved that there are those who are beginning to tackle these problems.

This post was written by Laxmi Parthasarathy (@laxmisarathy), a media development professional and currently Global Media Partnerships Manager at Ashoka.

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Broadcasting African Documentaries to Africa

SouthAfrica.Info, 22 July 2014

South Africa’s Durban International Film Festival initiated a world first on Monday as it began broadcasting a full week of African documentary films to television audiences across sub-Saharan Africa.

The AfriDocs Film Week connects the largest film festival in Africa to TV viewers in 49 African countries through a “film festival on your screen” featuring documentary films from the DRC, Kenya, Liberia, Mali, Mozambique, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda.

The week-long film event is a project of AfriDocs, the first weekly prime-time documentary strand broadcasting across the continent. AfriDocs broadcasts top African documentaries to 49 countries every Tuesday night by satellite on ED (DStv channel 190) and GOtv (channel 65), and terrestrially to an additional 100 cities in eight countries.

AfriDocs is an initiative of Cape Town-based documentary production and distribution company Steps in partnership with the Bertha Foundation.

“So many documentary films have been shot in Africa, but very few have been seen by African audiences,” AfriDocs executive producer Don Edkins said in a statement on the weekend. “This heralds a new era of distribution for the continent.”

Films by African filmmakers Sani Elhadj Magori, Licinio Azevedo, Rehad Desai, Judy Kibinge, Andrey Samoute Diarra, Annalet Steenkamp and Mandy Jacobson – together with filmmakers Mika Karismäki, Thierry Michel, Roger Ross Williams, Abby Ginzberg and Göran Olsson, among others – will be seen for the first time by a wide audience as a result of this collaboration.

Seven of the films screening at the Durban International Film Festival, which is currently under way, will also be part of the programme, including the award-winning Miners Shot DownConcerning ViolenceI AfrikanerThe Irresistible Rise of Moïse Katumbi and Soft Vengeance.

These documentaries tell a wide range of stories, including films about African artists such as singer Miriam Makeba and Malian photographer Malik Sibidé, films about political leaders Patrice Lumumba and Liberian President Sirleaf Johnson, and films dealing with revolutionaries, farmers, gangsters, musicians and evangelists.

Rebecca Lichtenfeld, director of social impact media at Bertha Philanthropies, said the Bertha Foundation was proud to partner with Steps in bringing great documentary films to audiences across Africa. “Connecting documentary film to African audiences is something we have been hoping to do for some time now, and this is an ideal platform for that,” she said.

For the full programme schedule and synopses of the films, visit www.afridocs.net or www.facebook.com/AfriDocs.

SAinfo reporter

Read more: http://www.southafrica.info/news/afridocs-220714.htm#.U8-_9vmICQp#ixzz38IiHkuIb

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Afghanistan, Media: Oral Stories Project – Afghan Women’s Writing Project

I Just Keep Delivering

Illiterate Afghan Women Get in a Word on Pregnancy & Childbirth

Afghanistan has one of the highest rates of maternal mortality in the world, according to the World Health Organization, whose statistics show one in 11 Afghan women die of causes related to pregnancy and childbirth. Who’s to blame? In a mix of poverty and cultural tradition, girls marry and give birth too young. Family planning is rare. Access to doctors and public health facilities is minimal at best, and non-existent in rural areas.

Don’t miss these ten interviews with illiterate Afghan women by writers of the Afghan Women’s Writing Project.  Ten short pieces that enable western readers to hear the womens’ first-hand thoughts on family planning and pregnancy. Read all of them and share with your friends!

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Media: Citizen Participation and Technology: An NDI Study

Posted on July 1, 2014Julianna Jerosch  

After the Arab Spring, technology became the panacea for democratic development issues. Many programs focus on using technology to engage citizens and to spread information, but how effective are these tools at promoting democracy?

Representatives from the National Democratic Institute (NDI) visited NED headquarters on June 30 to discuss their recent study, Citizen Participation and Technology. The study aims to provide realistic expectations for technology as a democracy-building tool. By examining case studies of several NDI programs, the study assesses the effectiveness of tech tools and how they can enhance development work.

Information and communications technology (ICT) creates more space for citizens to use their voice and provides greater access to information. In closed environments, increased information and communication is vital, but the real challenge is to turn this into meaningful political dialogue. Tech tools may strengthen citizen voices, but often the normative framework that drives political action is not democratic. Technology does not negate the need to develop the non-technological facet of programs. Further political development is needed along with the tech tools to see democratic outcomes. A clear connection between the use of technology and democratic developments is necessary for program planning.

Governments that do make use of these new technologies are able to reach a wider audience. However, they treat the public as consumers of services, not as citizens with agency. The underlying incentives for action haven’t changed. Technology has changed the ability to respond, but actual government responsiveness and public input into decision-making is lacking. Additionally, citizens may become disillusioned when increases in information and communication fail to result in reforms. More transparency doesn’t always translate into greater accountability.

Technology is very effective at building coalitions of citizen groups and contributes to their political organization. These groups can focus attention on particular issues and take advantage of political opportunities, applying external pressure when the political will is there. Crowdsourcing does not create self-organizing, politically-influential groups. Citizen groups that use crowdsourcing for public input must use additional engagement activities to mobilize citizens for collective action.

It is unclear that access to technology increases the political power of marginalized groups, who may not have access to technology in the first place. Those who use these tools are often the same individuals and groups who were already occupying the political sphere. The tools end up adding to the number of voices, without necessarily strengthening democracy.

Many programs attempt to use technology as a shortcut, but you can’t get democracy on the cheap. Aspirations are too high for the democratizing power of technology. We need to understand how technology is integrated into the daily lives of citizens and to figure out how technology can be used to address governance issues. What’s the next step in tech?

For more information on this topic, check out the World Bank’s study, Closing the Feedback Loop: Can Technology Amplify Citizen Voices?, and the report by the Institute of Development Studies,Understanding ‘the users’ in Technology for Transparency and Accountability Initiatives

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Media, Development: Calls for media freedom to be included in post-2015 development goals

NEW YORK, 4 July 2014 (IRIN) – In the debate over the inclusion of media freedom and access to information in the post-2015 development agenda, it is perhaps fitting that it all comes down to language.

A growing international coalition has come together in the belief that sustainable development cannot be achieved “without public access to reliable information about health, education, the environment, and other critical development areas – and that requires independent monitoring of that data by media and civil society,” as William Orme, UN representative for the Brussels-based Global Forum for Media Development (GFMD), characterized the stakes to IRIN. But will this notion be enshrined in the Sustainable Development Goals, currently under discussion in a series Open Working Group meetings? And if so, what will the precise wording be?

The matter is controversial, noted James Deane, director of policy and learning at BBC Media Action, speaking during a panel discussion on 5 June.

“Any discussion of having some kind of goal around governance is already contentious,” he said. “Having a discussion that mentions the word media, especially if it’s associated with anything called freedom, immediately creates a dynamic in the development discussion where a lot of developing countries – and I think particularly the Chinas of this world – become increasingly uncomfortable, feeling that this is a Western agenda, an excuse to compose a conditionality on developing countries, their values, that it will be interpreted in ways that are damaging to their interests and it just immediately becomes – it takes the discussion out of a development context into a much more politically charged set of arguments and discussions.”

“This is not a North vs. South debate, as some have wrongly portrayed it,” said Orme of GFMD. “Many African, Asian and Latin American countries have strongly backed the inclusion of ‘A2I’ [Access to Information] targets in the continuing UN discussions about the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In contrast to the Millennium Development Goals, the new SDGs are intended to apply to all countries, to the North as well as the South. And there is no country where the public availability of independently evaluated development information cannot be improved.”

Last year, the Report of the High-Level Panel of Eminent Persons, co-chaired by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono of Indonesia, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia, and UK Prime Minister David Cameron, suggested five ways “to ensure good governance and effective institutions” in the post-2015 framework. One was to “ensure people enjoy freedom of speech, association, peaceful protest, and access to independent media and information”. Another sought to “guarantee the public’s right to information and access to government data”.

At the same time, the Open Working Group (OWG), which is made up representatives of 69 member countries, began meeting to develop its own recommendations for the SDGs. In April 2014, the OWG released the Focus Area Document, which asked nations to “improve access to information on public finance management, public procurement and on the implementation of national development plans”. It also advocated removing “unnecessary restrictions of freedom of media, association and speech”. Many media-freedom advocates regarded the document as a regression from the high-level panel’s work.

Stronger wording 

But aided by the advocacy of more than 200 organizations led by GFMD and Article 19 (an NGO dedicated to press freedoms), OWG released a Zero Draft on 2 June that contained much stronger wording than the Focus Area Document. It proposed that SDG No. 16 to “achieve peaceful and inclusive societies, rule of law, effective and capable institutions” include subgoals to “improve public access to information and government data” and “promote freedom of media, association, and speech.”

“Having a discussion that mentions the word media, especially if it’s associated with anything called freedom, immediately creates a dynamic in the development discussion where a lot of developing countries … become increasingly uncomfortable”

Jan Lublinski, a project manager for the German international media development agency DW Akademie, said he was “delighted” that the first version of the Zero Draft included passages on media freedom and access to information.

“More and more people are becoming aware that these issues need to be included in the future framework of SDGs,” he told IRIN. “So I am quite optimistic that we will see these important elements in the final document.”

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Media, Development: Guide to Apps for Social Change

Posted by Valerie Oliphant on July 7, 2014 at 11:05am
Dear Colleagues,

One of the main goals of this site is to help practitioners, students, and scholars network, connect, and share best resources. This guide will look at some of the key issues and considerations around using apps in peace and development work, as well as offer some examples of how they are being used.  An app, which is short for (software) application, is  software that is used on a mobile device or smartphone (Android, iPhone, BlackBerry, iPad, etc.).  With the boom in use of smart phones, we have seen a corresponding growth in number of available apps, some of which are being leveraged for social change. According to Forbes, as of December 2013, there are 1,000,000 apps available in the Apple store, with 25,000-30,000 apps being added every month.

This guide is not specifically an endorsement of any particular product/company, but rather some resources you might find useful in your work and research. Before downloading any resource on your device of choice, we highly recommend ensuring the download is safe, spyware and virus free and also appropriate for your operating system.  We encourage others to suggest additional tips and resources in the comments.

When thinking about using or developing an app for your program, here are some key issues to consider:

Does the tool fit the objective?  While apps show a lot of potential in our field, it is important to think about whether or not the technology matches with the goals and means of the project.  Some questions to consider:

  • Do people have access to smart phones? 
  • Will their identities and data be protected? 
  • How will data be monitored, used, and/or put into action? 
  • Are people expecting a response? How will the app meet those expectations and needs?
  • Is there an easier way to meet the same objective(s)?
  • How expensive will it be to develop an app?  Will the app be offered for free?
  • How do you verify accuracy of information and reporting?

There are many questions to ask yourself before deciding that an app will be the most effective tool for your project/program/organization.  Feel free to add additional considerations in the comments below!

Examples of Apps

Apps are being developed in a number of ways.  Some apps focus on sharing and disseminating knowledge and information. Others focus on increasing transparency and accountability by allowing users to submit texts reporting human rights violations, bribery, crime, etc.  There are apps to monitor public health and water quality, apps to promote local commerce and trade, apps to educate girls, apps to educate others about the need to educate girls, and more. Below are just a few examples of the types of apps available to users.  Click on the link for more information about each one.  A reminder: PCDN is not endorsing  any particular product/company. Please make sure the download is safe, spyware and virus free and also appropriate for your operating system before downloading anything.

Source for Infographic: http://www.thinkcomputers.org/infographic-smartphone-trends-for-2013/

Apps for Transparency, Accountability, and Reporting- apps that are used to report crime, incidences of violence, traffic violations, each time they pay a bribe, etc.

Apps disseminating Knowledge and Information– apps that share news sources, videos, educational materials or tutorials, indexes, data, etc.

  • App to strengthen women’s human rights by making the texts and content of UN and other international agreements, resolutions and documents about women’s human rights more easily accessible.
  • United Nations Handbook 2013-14 details how the UN works.
  • Red Flag is a guide to working in high-risk areas that educates businesses about potential human rights violations.
  • IRIN News is a daily humanitarian news and analysis service offered by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs with a wide network of locally-based writers in Africa, Asia and the Middle East.
  • The OECD Info app allows users to access and comment on news, publications, videos, and indexes, as well as participate in discussions, from the OECD.
  • World Bank finances app gives the general public access to mapping, contracts, and procurement data for World Bank projects, loans and grants.
  • Better World Flux lets users look at progress made towards the UN’s Millennium Development Goals, both by indicator and by country, using World Bank Open Data.
  • People Power App, produced by the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict (ICNC), gives users access to ICNC’s educational and research materials, information on activities, current events/news related to nonviolence, lectures, interviews, webinars, and an online resource library.

 Apps in Action– apps that are used as a part or whole project/program themselves, in which organization put the information gained from their app into action.

  • Circle6 is an app that allows users to prevent sexual assault by alerting their  close friends through a series of icons that quickly and easily lets their “circle” know where they are and how they can help.
  • UNMAS Landmine and ERW Safety allows individuals to report hazardous areas and items to UNMAS using photos, GPS coordinates, and any other descriptions they can provide.  UNMAS will then use this information to coordinate with the appropriate agency and handle the hazardous areas and items.
  • mWater monitors and maps the quality of drinking water in Tanzania.
  • Ustad Mobile, also known as Mobile Teacher, uses audio and video tutorials to teach users mathematics and two languages (Dari and Pashto). Using phones for education overcomes the lack of computers and increases access to education for women and those in rural areas.
  • KivaLender App users can send micro loans to those in developing countries, scrolling through the latest loan requests on Kiva.org by sector or country, as well as track the progress of individuals they have previously loaned to.
  • Dialogue App– allows citizens to discuss ideas and strategies for improving their communities through an online platform.

  Apps for Philanthropy- apps that are used for charity, philanthropy; creating awareness, support, and funds.

  • Feedie For every photo of food that is shared, The Lunchbox Fund donates actual food to children in need.
  • Charity Miles Users can choose a charity to which a certain amount of money is donated based on how long they run, walk, or bike, tracked by the GPS on the app.
  • Human Rights Campaign’s Buying for Equality App lists brands and products from businesses that support LGBTQ equality.
  • Amnesty Internationals AiCandle allows users to light a virtual candle, take part in international campaigns, and sign petitions.

 Putting yourself in their shoes- apps that are geared to help others understand the perspective of those in circumstances different than their own by allowing them to experience or see things from alternate viewpoints.

  • My life as a refugee is a game that creates awareness by role playing the tough decisions and events that real refugees face on a daily basis.
  • Get Water! Is a game that creates awareness about the struggles girls face when trying to access education.  Users have to help Maya collect clean water quickly so she has time to go to school and study.
  • One Day’s Wages raises user’s awareness of global poverty, allowing them to calculate one day’s wages in different areas of the world.
  • UNESCO Bangkok’s Flood Fighter App is a game that teaches about flood safety.

 Conclusion

Funding opportunities for apps and technology for change are rapidly increasing- with challenges to Silicon Valley being made by Kofi Annan, Bill and Melinda Gates, Bob King’s Stanford Institute for Innovation in Developing Economies, Google Ideas, the World Bank, and more.

If you are interested in learning how to code or build your own app, check out Code Academy’s free online courses,Forbes’ list of cloud-based tools, and/or this list of 9 resources for building your own app. Nextgov offers someguidelines on building a better app, and reviews apps used and produced by the US government.

As noted in this Foreign Policy article, while technology offers us hope and the promise of a brighter future, it is unrealistic to think it can solve all world problems.  In fact, some of the better solutions come from simple projects, rather than overly-ambitious and unnecessary technological inventions (FP compares a $99 dollar soccer ball that will generate power after being kicked around to a more economical and useful $10 solar-powered lamp).

 

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Media: Participant Index Seeks to Determine Why One Film Spurs Activism, While Others Falter

LOS ANGELES — You watched the wrenching documentary. You posted your outrage on Twitter. But are you good for more than a few easy keystrokes of hashtag activism?

Participant Media and some powerful partners need to know.

For the last year Participant, an activist entertainment company that delivers movies with a message, has been quietly working with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Knight Foundation and the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism to answer a question vexing those who would use media to change the world.

That is, what actually gets people moving? Do grant-supported media projects incite change, or are they simply an expensive way of preaching to the choir?

Photo

“The Square” scored extremely high for emotional involvement at 97 out of 100, but dropped to 87 in terms of provoking action. CreditNetflix/Noujaim Films

More immediate, those behind the effort say, new measures of social impact will enable sharper focus and rapid course corrections in what have often been guesswork campaigns to convert films into effective motivational weaponry. That approach would apply to a hit like the movie “Lincoln,” which counseled civic engagement, or to a box-office miss like the antifracking film “Promised Land.” Both were Participant-backed films.

To get the answers it wants, Participant is developing a measuring tool that it calls the Participant Index, assisted in the effort by the Annenberg school’s Media Impact Project. In rough parallel to the Nielsen television ratings, the still-evolving index compiles raw audience numbers for issue-driven narrative films, documentaries, television programs and online short videos, along with measures of conventional and social media activity, including Twitter and Facebook presence.

The two measures are then matched with the results of an online survey, about 25 minutes long, that asks as many as 350 viewers of each project an escalating set of questions about their emotional response and level of engagement.

Did it affect you emotionally? Did you share information about it? Did you boycott a product or company? Did it change your life?

“If this existed, we would not be doing it,” said James G. Berk, chief executive of Participant. “We desperately need more and more information, to figure out if what we were doing is actually working.”

The answers result in a score that combines separate emotional and behavioral measures. On a scale of 100, for instance, “The Square,” a documentary about Egyptian political upheaval that was included in Participant’s first echelon of 35 indexed titles this year, scored extremely high for emotional involvement, with a 97, but lower in terms of provoking action, with an 87, for a combined average of 92.

By contrast, “Farmed and Dangerous,” a comic web series about industrial agriculture, hit 99 on the action scale, as respondents said, for instance, that they had bought or shunned a product, and 94 for emotion, for an average of 97. That marked it as having potentially higher impact than “The Square” among those who saw it.

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The documentary “The Cove,” which looks closely at dolphin killing in Japan, had worldwide ticket sales of just $1.2 million after its release in 2009. Yet it has repeatedly led to campaigns to protect the Japanese dolphins. CreditOceanic Preservation Society/Roadside Attractions

Daniel Green, the deputy director for strategic media partnerships at the Gates Foundation, traces the new drive for impact measurement to a Seattle meeting in December 2011 among about two dozen representatives of nonprofits with an interest in social change.

“Grantors didn’t have a lot of sophistication around their analytics,” said Michael Maness of the Knight Journalism and Media Innovation program, a group that attended. He joined Mr. Green last month in describing frustration among nonprofits at their inability to gauge how much change their projects are prompting.

The Seattle gathering led to an association with the Annenberg school’s Norman Lear Center, which early last year established its Media Impact Project. That project then served as a consultant to Participant in creating its index, which received $4.2 million in combined financing from the Knight and Gates foundations and from George Soros’s Open Society Foundations.

The methodologies being used for the index will be provided on an open-source basis to those who are interested — whether on the left or right or in the center of the ideological spectrum.

“We’re developing a set of tools and measures that will be available for any researcher, no matter what their viewpoint,” said Martin Kaplan, director of the Lear Center.

Participant, created in 2004 by the eBay co-founder Jeffrey S. Skoll, is using that methodology to build a proprietary database. It will feature three echelons with 35 projects each, or about 100 distinct bits of media, annually.

The company will lean heavily toward films and television shows of its own, especially those carried on its activism-driven online and pay-television network, Pivot. But it will also index properties for partners, like the Gates and Kaiser Family foundations, and for companies or others who will pay a fee.

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Participant was created in 2004 by the eBay co-founder Jeffrey S. Skoll, left, pictured here with James G. Berk, chief executive.CreditEmily Berl for The New York Times

(Prices have not been set, Mr. Berk said, but he expects to serve nonprofits at cost. He declined to say how much Participant has invested in the index.)

In an inaugural general survey, which polled 1,055 of its viewers in March and April of this year, Chad Boettcher, Participant’s executive vice president for social action, and Caty Borum Chattoo, a researcher and communications professor at American University, found some perhaps surprising results.

Even among the presumably progressive Participant audience, crime ranked near the top of the list of 40 primary concerns. It was cited by 73 percent of respondents as an important social issue, placing it just behind human rights, health care and education.

Gay rights, female empowerment and prison sentencing reform, by contrast, ranked near the bottom of the list, while climate change was stuck in the middle, a concern among 59 percent of respondents. Digital intellectual property issues, at 38 percent, brought up the rear.

Stories about animal rights and food production, it turned out, were the most likely to provoke individual action. But tales about economic inequality — not so much.

Over all, said Marc Karzen, a social media entrepreneur whose company, RelishMix, advises film and television marketers, Participant will most likely affirm what is becoming clear to conventional film studios: Impact can be less about persuasion than nudging an audience to go where it is already pointed.

“You have to embrace your fans, not shout at them,” Mr. Karzen said. “They need to be inspired to spread the word.”

One of the weirdest problems in measuring social impact, and one still unresolved, Mr. Boettcher said, is the paradox of “The Cove.”

That documentary, which looks closely at dolphin killing in Japan, had worldwide ticket sales of just $1.2 million after its release in 2009. Yet it has repeatedly led to campaigns to protect the Japanese dolphins, Mr. Boettcher notes, particularly among activists who are aware of the film but will not watch (and hence, would not be counted under the current methodology of the index) because of its gory content.

“They don’t want to see it,” Mr. Boettcher said, “but they will sign up.”

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Media: Shubhranshu Choudhary: Giving a Voice to a Ravaged, Neglected Region | Innovators

news.nationalgeographic.com, June 30, 2014

As the South Asia producer for BBC TV and Radio during the 1990s and early 2000s, Shubhranshu Choudhary spent much of his time darting around the region covering wars and natural disasters, dropping into trouble spots—Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Nepal, Kashmir, Afghanistan—interviewing local leaders, politicians, or NGO spokespersons, filing his story then moving on.

It was an exciting life, full of foreign travel, helicopters, and headline events, far removed from the rural coal-mining backwater in India’s Chhattisgarh state (part of Madhya Pradesh state until 2000) where he grew up, attending the local tribal school, or his first job reporting for a Hindi-language newspaper in Chhattisgarh’s capital, Raipur, and learning English by listening to BBC Radio at night. He was well respected, well connected, with a broad view of news and world events—an accomplished practitioner of what he would later come to regard as an “aristocratic” form of journalism.

Over the years, every now and then, he would get calls from people he knew back in his old neighborhood, urging him to come back to his roots and report on the issues behind the Maoist insurgency headquartered in the hills there, a conflict that had ravaged his region intermittently for decades.

“To tell you the truth, I kind of ignored them,” he recalls. “At the BBC we had a world audience and were more interested in covering bigger international wars.” Eventually, though, when the Maoists killed 76 Indian police officers in an ambush, the story became a headline event andChoudhary found himself leading a BBC TV crew into Chhattisgarh. By then what had been a simmering guerrilla war was well on the way to becoming what the Indian government would describe as the single biggest internal security threat facing the nation.

Listening to the Disenfranchised

For Choudhary, covering a war on his home turf was a transforming experience. This was no foreign conflict, but one that was unfolding in an area he knew well and understood. From having grown up in a small railroad town and attended the school there as a child, he found he had many useful contacts within the Maoist ranks. They were keen to talk. And what they told him led him to question the role journalists, journalism, and powerful media organizations played in presenting stories to the public and in deciding what was news—and what was not.

“I saw there were really two wars going on in Chhattisgarh,” Choudhary recalled. One involved a small fraction of the rebels who were fanatically committed to communism. The other involved the vast majority of their followers, mainly poor, lower-caste tribal people, who had picked up rifles and joined the Maoists because they had run out of patience. “They could think of no other way to call attention to the grievances they had and the problems they were facing—things like poverty, lack of health care, poor sanitation, crime, corruption, unpaid wages, and the fact that nobody listens to them or seems to care,” he said. “It wasn’t communism they wanted but to have a voice, to be heard and taken seriously.”

It was the raw material of life and living, the stories of the streets, that fascinated him. He studied anthropology and drifted into journalism.

Their stories caused him to reflect on his own childhood years in Chhattisgarh. Although he was in school with the other children in the town, his parents were of a Brahman caste, his father had a good job with the railways, and Choudhary had naturally enjoyed the benefits of an upper-caste rearing. Although the children all played together in the streets after school, there were social, economic, and linguistic barriers between them that were as unyielding as brick walls.

Choudhary’s parents had held high aspirations for him. They wanted him to become a professional man, a doctor or an engineer, and saw to it that he had every opportunity to do so. He, on the other hand, had no such ambition. It was the raw material of life and living, the stories of the streets, that fascinated him. He studied anthropology instead and drifted into journalism.

Intrigued by the conflict on his childhood doorstep, Choudhary left the BBC, returned to Chhattisgarh, and with the assistance of a Knight International Journalism Fellowship began to study the problem of how to give disenfranchised villagers of Chhattisgarh the voice they craved and were willing to fight for. It needed to be simple, low cost, and democratic—not run by outsiders with vested interests but by the locals themselves. He wanted it to reach even into the remotest corners of the state and deliver the news and raise issues in the locals’ own Gondi language yet still reach the ears of the outside world.

A Collective Voice From Mobile Phones

Community radio would have been an ideal solution, but radio licenses are tightly controlled in India, and the nonofficial broadcasting of news, even the discussion of news and current events on air, is strictly forbidden.High illiteracy rates among the very same villagers who needed and wanted a voice in the media ruled out newspapers or magazines, and there is no Internet to speak of in rural Chhattisgarh. Only 0.7 percent of homes in Chhattisgarh have access to the Internet.

The one piece of modern telecommunications gear that has deeply penetrated most of Chhattisgarh, however, is the ubiquitous mobile phone. Many, if not most, villagers have them, and those who do not can always get access to one in any one of Chhattisgarh’s bustling marketplaces. Choudhary began exploring the idea of using mobile phones as a media platform. And with technical expertise provided by Microsoft Research India he came up with CGNet Swara: a world-first cell-phone-based news and current affairs network.

In the four years since it went live, in February 2010, it has transformed the way news is shared among the rural poor in central India. More than 300,000 reports have been called in by the new citizen journalists of Chhattisgarh, and 4,700 fact-checked stories aired and shared, many of them translated into Hindi and English and posted on CGNet Swara’s website, where they have been picked up by mainstream media in India and abroad, bringing the voices and views of the villagers in rural Chhattisgarh to the outside world for the first time and providing a peaceful vehicle for change.

Model Citizen Journalists

Its success has spawned similar cell-phone-based news services in other far-off regions around the world, from Somalia to Borneo, and earned 45-year-old Choudhary the 2014 Google Digital Activism Award—beating out NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden for the distinction. “If we want to live in a peaceful society, it is not enough for our elections to be democratic,” he says. “We need for the media to be democratic as well, so that everybody, all of us, has a say in deciding what issues are going to be discussed, not just a few wealthy media proprietors and their chosen editors.”

Despite their numbers, poverty, remoteness, high illiteracy rates, and the general “otherness” of the Gondi speakers didn’t make them an attractive market.

Chhattisgarh is a heavily forested state in central India that forms a part of Gondwana, India’s rural heartland. (The “CG” in CGNet Swara stands for “Central Gondwana”; swara means “voice” in Sanskrit.) As when describing the American Midwest or Appalachia, there are no formal boundaries to Gondwana. The name derives from the Gond people, a widespread ethnic minority whose language is spoken by an estimated eight million people in the region’s crowded streets and marketplaces and distant mountain villages—but by very few journalists in any of India’s mainstream publications.

None of India’s influential newspapers or magazines are published in Gondi, nor does All India Radio—that nation’s sole radio broadcaster—provide any broadcasts in the language. Despite their numbers, poverty, remoteness, high illiteracy rates, and the general “otherness” of the Gondi speakers didn’t make them an attractive market. Indeed a recent study showed that mainstream media outlets across India devote as little as 2 percent of their coverage to India’s poor tribal minorities.

Serendipity: Choudhary Meets Thies

When Choudhary seized on the idea of a grassroots mobile-phone-based news service, using playback voicemail to “broadcast” the stories, he faced some technical stumbling blocks that he was unequipped to solve. Serendipitously, Choudhary happened to meet Bill Thies at a mobile technology conference in 2008 in Bangalore. A Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) doctoral student in computer science, Thies had recently taken a job as a researcher with the Technologies for Emerging Markets Group with Microsoft Research India.

Thies had been working on an MIT-sponsored project called Audio Wiki, a user-generated platform for publishing audio content to a wider audience, which proved to be an ideal starting point for building a mobile-phone-based news network. The two men hit it off. And from their collaboration CGNet Swara was born.

“It was no great technical breakthrough,” says Thies. “All we had to do was modify a voice mail message system so that messages could be edited and then listened to by anyone who called in and pushed number two on the menu. It was more of an engineering problem. What we have accomplished, though, will make it easier to set up similar systems elsewhere.”

Already a community-based news service modeled on CGNet Swara is being planned in Somalia, while in Indonesia a text-based service is up and running and proving popular in Kalimantan, on the island of Borneo. “It is the sort of thing I think we are going to be seeing a great deal more of in the future,” says Elisa Tinsley of the Washington, D.C.-basedInternational Center for Journalists, who attended CGNet Swara’s inaugural workshop in 2010 in the remote village of Jashpur, where locals were introduced to the service, shown how it would work, and given instruction on filing stories.

“The big challenge is going to be how to sustain it in the long term,” she says. At present CGNet Swara is a free service, the cost of running it underwritten by grants from the UN Democracy Fund and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Cultural activists are traveling from village to village in central India to tell people about CGNet Swara through song, dance, and drama.

Eyewitness Reporting

It is a sultry morning early in May, with the heat and humidity in Chhattisgarh ratcheting up ahead of the approaching monsoon. From a town called Dharamjaigarh, a man who identifies himself as DS Maliya phones in to report that two herds of elephants have been terrorizing villagers there who are afraid to go to sleep at night, but government officials refuse to do anything about it; another caller from a remote village in Madhya Pradesh reports that laborers who have been working on a dam project are being paid only 98 rupees a day instead of the government-mandated minimum wage of 146 rupees, and urges the broader community to put pressure on the company to pay up.

Meanwhile, that same morning, a woman from Dharampur calls in with the happier news that following an earlier broadcast on CGNet Swara, local pickers of tendu leaves—an ingredient in Indian cigarettes—are at last receiving their wages after having gone unpaid for months.

She reports that a payroll officer hastened to the village before dawn that morning, waking people up and hurriedly making the long-overdue payments ahead of a visit from a high-ranking government official who was expected to arrive later that afternoon and look into the report himself.

These calls, and others like them—about 500 per day—come in to the CGNet Swara headquarters, in Bhopal, where they are reviewed and filtered by a team of moderators, who check the reports for accuracy, relevance, and fairness, editing them for length and clarity as needed.

Spreading the News

Ideally, says Choudhary, and in the future, the moderators will be elected from the community to keep the news service true to its democratic roots. But for now the network’s staff of four moderators are trained journalists who happen to speak and understand Gondi—among them a lawyer who has some journalism training. “We have to go out of our way to be scrupulously accurate and impartial,” says Choudhary. “One mistake and we could be accused of spreading propaganda. Remember, there is a war going on here.”

Approved reports—such as this morning’s herd of rogue elephants, the plight of the underpaid dam workers, and the victory enjoyed by the tendu leaf pickers from Dharampur—are published and made available for playback by anyone who dials in and presses two on the menu. A message is sent out via Google’s SMS messaging service to notify users that a new story has been posted. Along with reports made by Chhattisgarh’s citizen journalists, relevant news items from the major newspapers are translated into Gondi and added to the list.

Selections of stories are posted as audio tracks on the CGNet Swara website, together with written translations in Hindi and English to make them accessible to the mainstream media in India and abroad. Stories are also shared on Twitter, Facebook, and other social media, in addition to being published on CGNet Swara’s blog.

Radio broadcasts in Gondi and other tribal languages would still be the gold standard, says Choudhary, who is exploring ways of getting around the Indian government ban on independent radio news by setting up shortwave broadcasts from Europe and making available clockwork radios—which work by being spring-wound, like old-fashioned alarm clocks—to villages in isolated areas that do not yet have electricity.

A Growing Sense of Community

In the four years since CGNet Swara went live, the service has chalked up a number of victories, large and small, for the Gondi-speaking villagers who had been ignored until now—from unpaid wages to broken wells to publicizing a police attack on three tribal villages that left two dead, homes burned, and a woman raped. That particular story was picked up by the mainstream media, and as a result the UN Human Rights Council got involved and issued a formal report, and the Indian Supreme Court ordered an investigation.

It isn’t just news and current events that CGNet Swara is disseminating: The calls coming in are full of stories, poems, songs, recipes, and herbal remedies as well, creating a growing sense of community.

Perhaps the most potentially lifesaving result of CGNet Swara’s stories is the increasing awareness of malaria in Chhattisgarh. So ignored was the province by the mainstream press and government health statisticians that the official figure for malaria deaths in Chhattisgarh for 2007 was zero—this in a steamy tropical part of India with a population of 25 million. “It was absurd,” recalls Choudhary. “Every single village loses many people to malaria every year, thousands of deaths in all.” Since the citizen journalists of Chhattisgarh started reporting on malaria and other health care problems in the region, official figures for malaria deaths in Chhattisgarh have soared—giving rise to a joke that the new news service was the biggest cause of malaria in central India.

It isn’t just news and current events that CGNet Swara is disseminating: The calls coming in are full of stories, poems, songs, recipes, and herbal remedies as well, creating a growing sense of community. They find they have much to talk about. Choudhary recalls wondering how well his grand idea was going to work in real life at the first workshop to teach Chhattisgarh’s would-be citizen journalists how to participate in their new community-based news service. He needn’t have. On the long drive to the nearest airport and their flight home, Thies tried dialing the new CGNet Swara number, curious to see if it was working and if anyone had begun using it yet.

“He listened for a moment, and then his face lit up,” Choudhary recalls. “He passed me the phone and said, ‘You’ve got to hear this.’ It was incredible. Some young guy had filed a story about a protest rally against the opening of a new mine. He introduced the story with the sounds of the protesters yelling, then faded out like he was in a studio and went straight into his reportage. He couldn’t have done it better if he had been with the BBC.

“I wondered why I ever doubted,” Choudhary mused. “You take a people with strong oral traditions like the villagers in Chhattisgarh, and what is the one thing they are going to do very, very well? Tell a story. Now they can tell them to the world.”

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Media: Citizen journalism gets more stories out than traditional reporting in war-torn Syria

phys.org, June 29,2014

Citizen reporters are increasingly getting stories out of remote areas of Syria, which are difficult for traditional media to reach during the conflict, according to data collated for Index on Censorship magazine.

It showed more reports were coming from citizen journalists than, in all areas of the country, with the exception of Homs.

Index on Censorship magazine worked with Syria Tracker, the independent news tracker, which has scanned 160,000 news reports and updates to look at the scale of citizen journalism. Syria Tracker verifies and analyses data before publishing on its own website. Only 6 per cent of data is considered to be well enough sourced to be published.

“Syria Tracker monitors 2,000 different news sources, including pro-regime outlets. Add to this 80 million social media updates and 4,000 eyewitness reports, and you can draw some interesting conclusions,” according to Index on Censorship’s deputy editor and author of the article, Vicky Baker. “For example, female deaths at the beginning of the conflict totalled one per cent, but then sharply rose to reach 18 per cent – clearly suggesting a point where citizens became targeted and were not collateral damage. This data analysis has also shown that children make up 11 per cent of all documented killings in Syria – with reports suggesting they have been targeted while at school, at home and while waiting in bread lines.”

“These sort of projects are vital to worldwide news organisations and, when aided by data journalism, can help us gain a fuller picture of the devastation being wrought,” Baker says.

Syria Tracker has been hacked and targeted with threats; some of its citizen reporters are missing, possibly dead. If citizens had abandoned the project a few months after the 2011 launch (as was anticipated), our understanding of events between Syria’s borders would be even more limited.

Tass Kass-Hout, Syria Tracker’s founder, said the work was relentless, and like a hurricane happening every minute. Yet Syria Tracker provides another tool for those attempting to piece together the full picture of what is happening during the war. “This is not a clinical trial,” says Kass-Hout. “We are telling a story, it’s a living record.”

Few professional journalists can reach remote regions of Syria. Instead thousands of citizens are helping to get the news of the devastation out. To date, Syria Tracker has mapped over 4,000 geotagged verified eyewitness reports, and uses large-scale data mining to scan news reports and social media updates. Only verified data are published – around six percent of what Syria Tracker receives. Manual checking can take several days, and includes correlating nearby reports and sometimes involves scanning gruesome and shaky video footage. Members of the core team work two to three hours each day in addition to their day jobs.

Syria Tracker offers us a window into the future of journalism, in particular war reporting, says Baker. International press and aid organisations are unable to rely on their own personnel on the ground, and so the world is looking to citizen journalism and crowdsourcing more than ever. Data compiled for Index on Censorship showed that the majority of (June 2011 to Feb 2014) outside Homs were sourced via crowdsourcing, rather than traditional news journalism. For instance in Aleppo, 184 reports came from news articles, and 18,776 from crowd sourcing, according Syria Tracker data.

Explore further: Syria state news agency under hacker attack

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Media: Yes, media freedoms can be measured

cima.ned.orgby Mark Nelson, June 19, 2014

If you hang around the halls of United Nations and World Bank long enough, you’re sure to encounter the old saw that goes something like this: “We have nothing against setting targets, but things like governance and press freedom just can’t be measured.”

Well, the old saws are being sharpened yet again today in New York City. A large group of negotiators are trying to decide on new targets for the 15-year period after 2015 when the Millennium Development Goals will expire.  And a large group of global media development professionals want freedom of expression and access to information to among the targets. Target No. 16, known as the governance target and covers “peaceful and inclusive societies, rule of law and capable institutions,” is up for discussion today.

In preparation for the negotiations in New York, CIMA hosted a meeting of media experts last week under the flag of the Global Forum for Media Development. That meeting resulted in a statement that argues for including freedom of expression and access to information among the post-2015 targets.

After all, freedom of expression and the right to disseminate and receive information are already enshrined in international law. These rights were part of the 1948 Universal Declaration on Human Rights, and have since been reaffirmed in numerous other international conventions.

The GFMD position paper points out that UNESCO, a UN agency with the mandate for ensuring compliance on the freedom of expression and media issues, is already producing a wide variety of indicators, and other UN agencies—from the International Telecommunication Union to the Office  of the High Commissioner for Human Rights—are also producing valuable statistics that could help track the health of media and information systems.

From the GFMD paper:

Proposed revisions to sub-goal/ targets Illustrative Indicators
  1. Implement effective regimes for public access to government information and data
  • Legal guarantees: access to information laws and/or constitutional guarantees
  • Readily, freely available public access to public information, including online
  • By 2030, ensure that all laws are publicized and accessible by all
  • Improve public access to information and government data, including on public management, public procurement and on the implementation of national development plans, extractive industries
  1. Promote freedom of expression, media, association and assembly
  • Freedom of expression is guaranteed in law and respected in practice
  • Legal and regulatory environment that ensures the rights of civil society to operate freely
  • Universal access to ICTs
  • People can use ICTs to communicate and associate freely
  • People are not subject to threats, harassment, surveillance or physical attacks as a result of gathering or disseminating information
  • Absence of criminal penalties for libel, defamation
  • The strengthening of an enabling environment for independent and pluralistic media

Of course, some of the most valuable data on the media sector is produced by non-UN agencies such as Freedom House, Reporters Without Borders and IREX, which produces the Media Sustainability Index. But in the highly contested world of measuring media and other freedoms, the debate is not only about whether these things should be measured at all, but also about who gets to hold the yardstick.

The talks today are not likely to be the last word on this issue. The final list of targets won’t be finally agreed until the fall of next year. In the meantime, the media development community will need to build international alliances and convince a lot of countries, some of which will win no gold stars for their performance on media freedoms.

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To access the full position paper, go to GFMD’s website here: http://gfmd.info/index.php/news/freedom_of_expression_and_access_to_information_post-2015_measurable_target/

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