Virtual Lecture – Confronting Hard Truths: Media Reform in Fragile Societies
Wednesday 13 April 2022, 10:00 am – 11:00 am EDT, online (Washington DC, USA)
Featuring Heather Gilberds and Mark Nelson.
In countries with weak institutions and numerous intersecting vulnerabilities, a free and pluralistic news media plays a central role in supporting economic and social improvements. This role is critically important in countries emerging from conflict or undergoing democratic transition, where gains made are often tenuous, and the threat of backsliding is ever-present. Ensuring that a country’s institutions, policies, norms, and values safeguard a robust and truly independent media sector is essential for combatting the divisive rhetoric, polarization, and lack of accountable governance that often prevent or stall progress in these contexts.
Despite the important role the news media play during processes of transition in fragile contexts, they often fail to fulfill this role responsibly. We only need to look to the devastating role that the media played during the Rwandan genocide to see that it can be a destructive force as easily as it can be a force for good. The news media in fragile contexts often feed the polarization of societies by operating under a logic of patronage and patrimony, serving as mouthpieces of the powerful, and amplifying misinformation and hate speech. As media systems shift in response to contextual pressure, constraints or influence, they can become more vulnerable to abuse or capture by vested political or economic interests. Further, given the rampant mistrust that exists in fragile countries between citizens, the media, and the state, there is often low demand for truly independent news and information.
By drawing on examples of intervention into the media sector in different types of fragile contexts: in the aftermath of conflict (e.g. Bosnia, Afghanistan, Liberia); in situations of ongoing fragility (e.g. Haiti, DRC); and during periods of democratic reform (e.g. Burma, Ethiopia), this presentation will examine how best to reform and strengthen independent news media to help ensure it can contribute to constructive and sustainable societal and political outcomes. Further, it will articulate the need for a demand-driven approach to the design and implementation of media sector interventions. Finally, this presentation will draw broad-based conclusions about how best to build supportive enabling environments and develop the overall capacity of the independent media sector in fragile countries.
Find out more information and book your free place here: https://mediapeaceproject.smpa.gwu.edu/marknelson-and-heathergilberds/