UNESCO supports media reform in transitional Sudan


The preliminary findings of the assessment on the Sudanese media environment were presented in a multi-stakeholder workshop held in the capital Khartoum on 5th February 2020. Based on the UNESCO’s Media Development Indicators (MDI), the assessment is a contribution to developing a Roadmap for Media Reform, which is a part of the One UN effort for supporting transitional government of Sudan.

“We have been waiting for this initial outcome, as well as for the final one” said the Minister of Culture and Information, HE Faisal Salih. He welcomed the idea of establishing an independent consultative body, in reaction to one of the main recommendations of the assessment, concerning the creation of an independent commission on media reform. The Minister also stressed the need to provide large-scale capacity building to the media community in Sudan, the country having recently joined the international Media Freedom Coalition.

The need for substantial reform to align Sudan’s media legislative framework with the new constitutional commitments and with international standards, was stressed by the UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Communication and Information, Mr Moez Chakchouk. He also recalled the importance of independent audio-visual regulation, of diversifying the media sector, and of enabling press freedom as indispensable to the achievement of a democratic transition and of the Sustainable Development Goals Agenda 2030.

Attended by over 60 experts and representatives from the Government and the civil society, the workshop was the culmination of two-month consultation process. The consultation was launched on 4 November 2019, with the participation of 150 stakeholders including government officials, journalists, media managers, experts and NGOs.

The process also included workshops focusing on the five MDI categories (1 - Regulatory system, held on 15 December 2019; 2 - Media plurality and diversity, 17 December; 3 - Media as a platform for democratic debate, 6 November; 4 - Professional capacity building, 1 December; 5 - Infrastructure, 16 December).

Regional workshops were also held outside the capital Khartoum: in Kassala, Eastern Region (23 January 2020); in Atbara, Northern Region (26 January); and in El Fasher, Western Region (on 30 January). Two more regional consultations planned: in Ed Damazin, Blue Nile state; and in El Obeid, North Kordofan state.

One-to-one interviews and small group meetings have been held with over 120 people involved in 60 organizations, including public officials, media managers, journalists and civil society activists. A special group meeting was dedicated to the subject of women and journalism in Sudan. The MDI assessment and the Roadmap for reform are to be finalized in the coming months.

The assessment and the workshop were co-organized by the UNESCO Office in Khartoum, upon request by the Ministry of Culture and Information, and in collaboration with representatives from the media community. This action has been possible thanks to the Multi Donor Programme on Freedom of Expression and Safety of Journalists, and the UK Embassy in Khartoum.

This initiative is part of the support that the Communication and Information Sector (CI) has mobilized, following the request by the Prime Minister of transitional Sudan, HE Abdalla Hamdok, to the Director-General of UNESCO, Audrey Azoulay, during the last UNGA side-event they co-participated on “Media Freedom: A Global Responsibility,” which was held in September 2019.

In the past months, following the signing of the August 2019 interim Constitutional Declaration, UNESCO Office in Khartoum has upscaled work in the CI field. Building upon achievements of the project for strengthening rural radio broadcasting in Eastern Sudan (funded by Italy), the Office also organized safety 12 trainings for women journalists, across all Sudan with more than 250 trained from all states.

UNESCO also initiated an assessment based on UNESCO’s Internet Universality Indicators (IUI) as funded by SIDA, which well complements the MDIs assessment with digital dimensions. The Organisation also participated in the 39th General Assembly of the Arab State Broadcasting Union (ASBU), held in Khartoum from 9 -12 December 2019, during which the government indicated that intends to support the transition from State media to public service broadcasting.

Accompanied by the Head of UNESCO Office in Khartoum Mr Pavel Kroupkine during his visit to Khartoum (3-6 February 2020), Mr Chakchouk held bilateral meetings with Salih, and with the First Secretary of the Ministry of Culture and Information, Rachid Saeed Yagoub.

He also met the Minister Education and President of the UNESCO National Commission, HE Mohammed El-Amin El-Tom, exchanging among other topics on the inclusion of Media and Information Literacy within the current reform of the school curricula. Mr Chakchouk co-hosted the launch of the IUI assessment, together with the General Director of the Telecommunications and Post Authority of Sudan Mr Assadiq Jemaladdin, highlighting it is the first time that the MDI and the IUI assessments are undertaken in parallel.

Mr. Chakchouk also visited the Sudan National Archives, met the first ever female vice-chancellor of the Sudan University, Prof. Fadwa Taha, as well as the Chief of Staff of the Prime Minister. In addition, Mr Chakchouk co-chaired a donors’ coordination meeting on media reform, together with the UN Resident Coordinator in Sudan Gwi-Yeop Son. He took part in an one-hour interview in Arabic broadcast on prime time by the Sudan National Broadcasting Corporation (SNBC).

The UNESCO ADG also had a variety of meetings with media managers, foreign ambassadors based in Khartoum, representatives from the media community, civil society organizations, and the Sudanese youth.

(*) UNESCO's Multi-Donor Programme on Freedom of Expression and Safety of Journalists was created by the UNESCO’s member-states in 2015, and supports the activities in the areas of its name all-over the globe. Currently, the Programme is based on donations of Austria, Canada, Island, Lithuania, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, and the UK. The Programme Strategy is here. This is a first action of the Programme in Sudan.