Strategies for Media Reform: International Workshop‘ was held on June 17th at Goldsmiths, University of London (UK), 9.30am-5:30pm, followed by Our Media – Not Theirs’ public rally for media reform in central London (University of Westminster) at 7pm for ICA and non-ICA delegates addressing key issues facing the international media reform movement. Vibodh Parthasarathi, Associate Professor, CCMG, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi was on the Organising Committee of this ICA Preconference.

The Preconference was an attempt to platform efforts across a range of countries to build vibrant and viable media reform movements, offer participants the opportunity to share their experiences and strategies before a global audience and thus generate momentum to sustain campaigns for media democracy.

The Indian Medialogue presents here abstract of a couple of presentations made in the Preconference.


SMR (media reform papers from across the world

A map of the Media reform papers from across the world

Both For and Against: Digital Activism and Media Regulation in Pakistan

By : Huma Yusuf Journalist & Media Researcher

Social media was first used for political activism in Pakistan in 2007, when pro-democracy protests coordinated online led to the ouster of a military dictator. The adoption of new media technologies coincided with the liberalization and privatization of Pakistan’s electronic media. As a result, the most effective digital activism in recent years has not been in the political realm, but as part of efforts to monitor the mainstream media as well as campaign against government initiatives to regulate or censor this proliferating and increasingly powerful industry.

This paper documents numerous instances in which bloggers, Pakistani Twitterati, and online coalitions have successfully used social media to monitor mainstream media practices and ethics, call for media reform, and hold media houses accountable for breaches of media ethics and journalistic integrity. It also describes how digital activists have redefined their primary role as advocates for media freedom, and have organized successful on- and offline campaigns against government initiatives to regulate, monitor, and censor the electronic media and internet. This dual role has led many media commentators to call for digital activists to be formally recognized as a regulatory force in Pakistan’s media landscape.

The emergence of ‘civic digital regulation’ offers interesting insights into the state of Pakistan’s media regulatory environment. To put the work of digital activists in context, this paper will also describe Pakistan’s current regulatory framework, and explain why mainstream media organizations have routinely failed to draft and implement a Code of Conduct or other self-regulatory mechanism.

To conclude, the paper will complicate optimism around the potential for ‘civic digital regulation’ . Although popular accounts assume that Pakistan’s cyberspace is liberal and unanimously in favor of media democratization and free speech, the paper will show how social networks and microblogging sites are increasingly polarized, with many voices organizing against free speech and supporting government censorship.


Media Reforms in Nepal

By: Binod

Nepal violent conflict that began in 1996 culminated in in the abolition of the country’s 240-year-old monarchy in 2008. The conflict ended in November 2006. During 2005 the media was brought under direct control of the king and suffered the worst forms of censorship. Nepal’s efforts for setting up a democratic federal state began in 2006 but the process remains incomplete. The Constituent Assembly (CA) elected in 2008 failed to produce a new constitution before its term ended in May 2012. The CA committee assigned to draft provisions for media legislation in the new constitution has included provisions that will ban political speech if enacted while efforts to rectify it remains held up for lack of an elected body to decide the constitutional provisions.

This paper will revisit the advocacy for media freedoms and free expression carried out by the International Mission to Nepal from 2006-2012 alongside Nepali press freedom organizations. The missions focused on advocacy for ending controls on media, and made policy recommendations many of which were adopted, particularly the Right to Information Act and Working Journalists Act. The process also helped in building local capacity and that has ensured continued advocacy. A close study of the Mission Reports can reveal a pattern of policy change that are relevant in terms of ‘pressing concerns’ in the ICA call for proposals.

The paper will be based on mission reports and statements, and interviews carried out by the author with informants as part of another assignment. It will provide insights into how a nationally led process can bring change – if only incremental.


Impunity, inclusion and implementation: Media reform challenges in Thailand, Burma/Myanmar, and  the Philippines

By: Lisa Brooten, Southern Illinois University

This     paper   compares media reform efforts in Thailand, until recently considered among the freest media environments in    Southeast Asia; Burma/Myanmar, once a repressive pariah state but now cited as potentially    a leading force in contemporary regional democratization efforts; and  the  Philippines,  whose media system looks    great   on  paper  but has  proven  deadly  on the  ground. The paper  analyzes the intellectual and  political  underpinnings of reform efforts  in each country, and demonstrates how a  broadened  set of  communication  rights beyond press freedom,  including  the  “the  right     to  communicate,”  remains  a  key principle  of  reform  efforts on  the  ground,    even  if  not  identified explicitly  as  such  by reformers.


A logo of the Strategy for Media Reform

This  imperative emerges  differently  in  each  context.  In  Thailand,  advocates have faced significant  obstacles to  reforming the  country’s mixed  system  of  government-controlled  broadcast media  and  private  print  sector;  this  includes inconsistencies  between constitutional  provisions and    the  organic  laws  intended  to operationalize them,    and the increasingly problematic  use  of lèse-majesté provisions  to censor political dissent. In Burma/Myanmar, rapid changes  have  provoked  a  reshuffling  and  realignment  of the internal  and  returning  elements  of     the  exile  media as plans  are  developing  for public, commercial,  and community  media sectors. In  addition  to protecting press  freedoms, reform efforts include the promotion of a public-service ethos and  the inclusion of ethnic minority  voices  in  the  media landscape. The Philippines, although considered one of the freest media  environments in the region,     remains one of the most dangerous places  in the world to practice journalism; reformers in  this context have focused on implementation of existing laws and reducing impunity. Calls for change in each of these countries function to construct contextually-specific visions   for a broadened  set      of  communication  rights; the  exploration of these efforts offers  insights  into media reform obstacles and opportunities in  non-western contexts.


Buying the Rivals Out: a Taiwanese Example

By:  Ya-Chi Chen
Assistant  Professor,  Department of Journalism. Chinese Culture University,  Taiwan.

Amid fear of Chinese capital invasion, the Hong-Kong listed Next Media  Group  announced to sell its      Taiwanese print      and television businesses to a consortium comprised of some richest and most powerful men in Taiwan and China. This sell-off has led to a series of protests for protecting democracy and maintaining media diversity as it is the most important case in the history of both Fair Trade Commission (FTC) and National Communications Commission (NCC) with regard to the ecology of media system in a newly democratized country.  If the merger case is approved, not only the market share of the print media owned by a single media mogul might effectively exceed 50 percent,  but  also there will be law-breaching financial holding firms and petro chemical companies taking in charge of the media.

The consortium also reveals an entrenched personal politico-economic  network in which some investors might simply be fronts for their alliance, which deeply concerns the media reform-minded scholars and civil society groups. However, the    way both commissions  respond to the  case seems to imply the passage of the case due to the absence of cross-media monopoly law. This paper critically examines the discourses appropriated by both  commissions and, instead of paying attention  to the drafting   a new    law in    the future, it argues that we should not lose sight to the current cross-media concentration crisis and  that the    lack of law should never    be an excuse for avoiding regulation.  More importantly, it     calls for more    media  reformers holding the   commissioners to account during the deliberation process, assuring that it is the principle of  a fair and diverse media system that guides the formation of anti-monopoly law.

Abstracts of all presentations made during the workshop are available here.

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