Eleven media experts from across the Arab region discovered a new way to assess media landscapes last week during an intensive training workshop organized by UNESCO in Amman, Jordan.
The three-day workshop focused on UNESCO’s Media Development Indicators (MDIs), a tool for assessing media development in a given country that can identify areas in which assistance is most needed. The associated Journalists’ Safety Indicators were also introduced.
Participants in last week’s workshop praised the rigor and breadth of the MDI framework, which they said could provide a valuable tool for media research and development in the Arab region.
The MDIs “provide an excellent opportunity for gathering information that is badly needed in this part of the world,” said Nabil Dajani, Professor of Media Studies at the American University in Beirut. “I have been trying for years to collect such information. With this approach you can come out with facts, with information that is really relevant and that will help develop the media situation in the Arab world.”
Dima Dabbous, Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication Arts at the Lebanese American University, agreed, calling the MDIs a “wonderful way of measuring or mapping progress” through a common methodology that can be used by researchers in different countries.
Both participants also saw the MDIs as a pedagogical method that they could bring to their university courses to train future media researchers.
For Mohammed Abdulrahman, Partners and Intenational Development Coordinator at Radio Netherlands Worldwide, the training workshop was “vitally important” for his work in developing partnerships with media organizations in the Arab region, by providing a way to assess the strengths and needs of potential partners.
The workshop also allowed participants to exchange with other researchers with shared interests from across the region.
“I will leave this conference not only having learned more about the MDIs themselves, but also with a large network of Arab professionals with whom I can connect later on to do more research in this common field,” said Dabbous.
In addition to the benefits to the participants, the workshop was also strategically important for UNESCO’s ongoing work to promote freedom of expression and media development in the Arab region.
MDI-based assessments have been completed in 11 countries and are currently underway in 18 others. In the Arab region, such assessments have been completed in Egypt and Tunisia, are underway in Iraq, Libya and Palestine, and are planned in several other countries.
“Through this regional workshop, UNESCO was able to achieve two important objectives,” said Saorla McCabe, coordinator of the MDI initiative. “Firstly, it allowed us to build a pool of potential partners for future MDI-based assessments in the Arab region, comprising high-level media researchers with excellent knowledge of the region. Secondly, we could fine-tune the Organization’s approach to applying the MDIs in this particular context, through an interactive discussion on the most appropriate research methods and data sources, challenges and opportunities.”
The workshop was supported by two regional extrabudgetary projects: Promoting an Enabling Environment for Freedom of Expression: Global Action with Special Focus on the Arab Region, financed by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), and Promoting Freedom of Expression in Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Syria, Tunisia and Yemen, financed by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland.
UNESCO’s Media Development Indicators were endorsed by the Intergovernmental Council of UNESCO’s International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC) in 2008.
They have since been recognized internationally by major actors in the media development field, including the United Nations Development Programme, the World Bank, the Council of Europe, the International Federation of Journalists, International Media Support, the Media Foundation for West Africa and the Doha Centre for Media Freedom.