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Media Development: Implications of the Leveson Inquiry


Media Development: Implications of the Leveson Inquiry

To: The Drum Beat Network on Media Development

From: Warren Feek

Hi - I am wondering how you are reacting to The Leveson Inquiry into the Culture, Practices and Ethics of the British press? It has revealed tales of proven and alleged illegal phone hacking by journalists, police working for newspapers, overly cozy media-politician relationships, deliberately false media stories being published, perhaps "favouritism" in deals related to the sale of media companies, file boxes required for evidence going missing and a bunch of other accusations, along with some convictions, mainly of journalists. See for example this BBC summary of week 17 of the Inquiry or this chronology of the hacking "scandal" as outlined by the BBC.

One of my reactions - once I get over the aghast phase - is to position this rather horrendous insight into how some of the most powerful and prominent media have operated, alongside how Northern media have perceived, treated and worked in relation to media in the South over the past 20 plus years - work that has often been supported by large levels of Development agency funding.

[This contribution is continued below. Please reply by email with your comments or open the Read More link below and enter your perspectives as comments. This is also a blog on The CI site where you can post comments and link to your Facebook page and Twitter feed].

That relationship has, in my observation, been sprinkled with phrases such as: bring developing country (sic) media standards up to those of the developed world (sic); ensure media independence and freedom in the Southern countries as it exists in the North; develop Southern journalists skills to match both the critical thinking and fact-checking standards of their Northern colleagues; produce a set of media and journalism/journalist ethics in the South that are to the level of those in the North; and many more almost pet phrases - principles and concepts that look more and more misplaced as every witness appears at Leveson.

In great preponderance it has tended to be media and journalism agencies in the North that have been writing the manuals, organising and conducting the training, setting the standards, deciding and reporting on the key indicators, and providing the critical commentary. There are excellent exceptions of course - Highway Africa and FNPI in Latin America come to mind. But these exceptions simply illuminate the overall pattern. See for further example who is mainly writing and publishing media development resource and training materials. When it comes to "technical assistance" there have not been many examples I can find of Africa journalists heading to the UK or the USA to critique and advise on their media standards and ethics.

The Leveson Inquiry should be a wake-up call for how we all organise the support for improved media development in all countries. It requires a much more equitable approach in relation to who is teaching who. There needs to be a more exploratory and less didactic process related to understanding, implementing and evolving some of the key media development concepts - freedom, independence and ethical standards - as opposed to seeking to "export" a set of "evolved and final" standards and practices to be met. Media assessment indicators and rankings need to be less ideological in their perspectives - public interest media with public ownership should not always produce a demerit mark - see the BBC in the UK or municipal TV in Colombia, for example.

Of course what Leveson is revealing is not an accurate and complete picture of ALL media and journalism in the UK. But it is simply a further compelling case for a more equitable, mutual sharing and collective approach to media development in all contexts. There are issues everywhere, not just Southern media. No single geographic group holds the eternal 5th Estate flame and truth.

What are your thoughts and reactions to the Leveson Inquiry and its implications for media development strategies?

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To: The Drum Beat's Media

To: The Drum Beat's Media Development network

Hi, Warren:

What a new thing!. You must make a track of the current ECUADOR government position against the corrupted (polluted) press.

First of all, in Ecuador the commercial media are private business making money with the main asset of every society, that is the truth. What is the line that divide the truth and the personal interests?. In case of conflict, ever they decide for the truth? So, the private press is a contradiction. Did you know about the condemn against the EL UNIVERSO news paper (the main en Ecuador)?. Here, they are political actors and manage the truth in accord to their particular interests.

In our history, Eloy Alfaro was the president that made a true revolution that established the foundations of our nation, but was brutally killed and who pushed the murderers was, strongly, our well known corrupted press. Before that date and Since then, the press have played the role of the holy guardian of the truth. Today, it is seriously questioned here.

What do you thing about de Human Right Commission of the OAS, being the only independent commission, sponsored for USA (who did not signed the letter of human rights because the "dead condemn" there) and for Europe (who have nothing to do with the OAS). This commission works like a NGO protecting the interests of its sponsors.

Greetings,César Macías

To: The Drum Beat's Media

To: The Drum Beat's Media Development Network

Macias’ argument is half right. I wouldn’t say half true at this point.

While one can agree with the premise ““in case of conflict” the private media can not “ever decide for the TRUTH””. The problem is on the attributes and responsibilities one would like to see the press observance in a democratic society.

If the press is invested as a responsibility of the public sector with no guaranty of its independence and dependant on government’s decisions and sponsorship, and subservient to the political maneuvers, it is also certain that in case of conflict with the government this press can not ever decide for the TRUTH. We aspire to have an independent media, serving the public interest above the particular or the stakeholders’ individual interests. There of course should freedom of expression, with no censorship, be it imposed from above or self imposed, but there should also be given the means and facilitate for the expression of the others, and better still, the media should strive to inform responsibly for as many accounts, versions, discrepancies, contradictions as possible, that is to bet for free debate of ideas, no voice should be silence. Is this aim possible under the pressure of the private interest and of the government?

It is also evident that the truth does not belong either here or there. The media in Latin America under the private sector, and specially when is part of corporate organization, has assume that their interest is the interest of the community as a whole, and in this sense has not been transparent nor has it assume its duty of self reflection and self criticism. It feels it is beyond any criticism or questioning, who dares question the questioners?

So I think the reflection on the media in Ecuador, or in any other country for that matter, should not be solely on the grounds of what or who holds the truth, but on the policies and the implication of the political decisions to better the media responsibilities and accountancy.

Fernando Calero

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