SKeyes Center for Media and Cultural Freedom - Samir Kassir Foundation

Building Regional Strategies for Media Development in the Middle East and North Africa

Friday , 17 April 2020

Around 40 prominent experts—including journalists and publishers, digital news entrepreneurs, civil society leaders, and scholars from across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA)—gathered in Beirut on September 16-17, 2019. The multi-stakeholder meeting was a rare occasion for such a diverse group to formulate a shared vision for how independent journalism can continue to grow in the region despite a highly restrictive political environment and amid a revival of autocracy. The meeting was co-organized by the National Endowment for Democracy's Center for International Media Assistance, Deutsche Welle Akademie, the Samir Kassir Foundation, and Maharat Foundation.

The media community in MENA faces profound challenges. Resurgent authoritarianism, complex economic threats to media’s viability, and the growing proliferation of hate speech and misinformation have made media work complicated and dangerous. In this environment, how can those on the front lines of these challenges come together to create effective strategies for concerted action to facilitate an enabling environment for media and political pluralism and the protection of media and human rights? This was the central question the participants worked to address.

Taking into account the complexity of the crisis and the diversity of experiences, the group agreed that cross-country networks and exchanges provide vital opportunities to learn, build partnerships, and coordinate strategies for media reforms. This cross-disciplinary approach aims for a renewed vision for media development in the region, identifying priority issues, achievable goals, and joint strategies that can provide the core of a regional response.

This report summarizes the main findings and concrete recommendations for action of this regional consultation that aimed to connect and invigorate those already working to strengthen independent journalism in the region. Participant discussions also focused on the need to ensure that international support is in harmony with local priorities and to foster cooperation among national, regional, and global stakeholders that would be sustainable, innovative, and effective in bringing about change.

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