When we're advocating for more attention to the role of independent media systems in developing nations, we often hear the question: What about conflict and post-conflict societies? Isn't it much more important to build peace first, to provide humanitarian aid, and to stimulate economic growth before thinking about what the people see on television?
I always find puzzling how easily techno-enthusiasts believe that new information software and gizmos can successfully address many problems for democratic communication. I guess it’s part of the perennial search for quick magic bullets to solve the miseries of the world.
What makes media development work? It seems that even development specialists don't always know. To close this knowledge gap, CommGAP is working on a media development toolkit for governance advisors, giving recommendations on how to implement successful media development projects.
CommGAP, in collaboration with the World Bank’s Demand for Good Governance Peer Learning Network and the World Bank Institute, organized a roundtable yesterday on “The Role of Media in Strengthening Governance.” Dr. Gerry Power, Director of Research & Knowledge Management at the BBC World Service Trust, presented examples from work done in Bangladesh, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone. World Bank colleagues Verena Fritz, Governance Specialist and a contributor to this blog, and Sahr Kpundeh, Senior Public Sector Specialist, served as discussant and chair, respectively. Participants included representatives from the media sector, civil society, and other international organizations.
Last week in Manila, Philippines, I attended an international conference on communication and diasporic communities entitled "Boundaries and Belongings: Transnationalism, Identity, and Communications." Hosted by the Ateneo de Manila University’s Department of Communication, the event featured research on diasporas around the world and the role of communication in their day-to-day lives. Examples ranged from differences in the use of international and domestic news sources (e.g., newspapers and television news) among local and international students, to the roles of new information and communication technologies, such as blogs and webcams, in helping individuals living abroad maintain a sense of connectedness to their home countries, families, and friends. As should be expected of an academic conference, both positive and negative arguments were raised regarding access to, use, and effects of these old and new technologies.
In the emerging participatory paradigm in development some of the greatest scholars, thinkers and communication practitioners come from developing countries of Africa, Asia and Latin America. One in particular has greatly influenced the field of communication for development, as it has emerged in recent years: Paulo Freire. It is important to acknowledge his influence in this particular branch of communication because he might not be so well known to communication specialists across the board since he is a renowned educator rather than a specialist in communication.
In 1973 Freire wrote an article titled “Extension or Communication”. In that article he clearly illustrated the difference between extension, which can be mostly identified with almost any kind of monologic approach, and communication. That is why in this blog, while referring to Freire’s original analysis, I use the term monologic instead of extension, which he considers closely associated with concepts such as transmission, cultural invasion and even domination. In comparing and confronting the differences between extension/monologic and dialogic approaches, Freire started from a semantic analysis of the terms, moving then to a more operational analysis of the practical implications of the two.
As you must know, Ghana has just had a remarkable transfer of power from one party to another in spite of how close the contest was. A new president has been sworn in and the country is looking to the future as a stable democracy. From the perspective of this blog, two things have been striking.
First, the global news media have been all over the story. All the leading journals of opinion have published stories and opinion pieces saluting Ghana's achievement. It is also interesting how often the stories have been framed as one hopeful sign of progress coming out of Africa. You can feel the collective sigh of relief . And the reason that is interesting is that there is still a debate out there regarding the extent to which liberal constitutional democracy is a universal form of rule, not dependent on specific cultures. Ghana is saying Africans too can build a democratic political culture as well as anybody.
With the new year, the UNESCO printing house has just come out with the copies of the paper “Press freedom and development: an analysis of correlations between freedom of the press and the different dimensions of development, poverty, governance and peace.”
It is satisfying to see brand-new books containing the study on which I’ve been working as part of a research project implemented by the Centre for Peace and Human Security (CPHS) at Sciences Po University, with UNESCO's support. And it is even more interesting to see some of the conclusions that the independent scholars reached in this research -- namely, that press freedom is positively correlated with good governance, human development, and democracy. This is, of course, one more argument to corroborate the theories on how a functioning public sphere contributes to peace-building and governance.
One could make a strong case that the reason why Barack Obama won the US presidential election is because of “Media Literacy” — not just the “Media Literacy” of his campaign workers, but that of a wide swath of the American electorate.