GPSA Panel Highlights Marginalized Voices at Global Media Forum
By Sandra Valdivia Teixeira, Global Partnership for Social Accountability, and Thomas R Lansner, Social Accountability Media Initiative
What should media do to raise voices that have traditionally been ignored? Can media report on inequalities and still maintain its neutrality? Should journalists trust civil society organizations’ information to create their stories? These were among the most crucial questions at this year’s Deutsche Welle Global Media Forum (DW-GMF), whose theme was “Global Inequalities”.
The annual forum hosted by Germany’s international broadcaster is the largest global media and development conference, and was held this year in Bonn from from June 11-June 13.
A team from the World Bank Global Partnership for Social Accountability [GPSA] and its partners, the Social Accountability Media Initiative (SAMI), the Aga Khan University Graduate School of Media and Communications (GSMC) in Nairobi, and the Malawi Economic Justice Network (MEJN), attended the forum and spoke with dozens of participants.
A consensus appeared to emerge among more than 2,300 media professionals, civil society, and governmental participants: to better address global—and local—inequalities, media must offer more space to the most marginalized people, and marginalized communities must improve their advocacy communications skills to effectively press their concerns with both media and government.
Improving governance, transparency, and accountability requires a free media, emphasized Friederike Kraecher, head of the Culture, Creative Industries, Media and Sport Division at the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) during an address to the forum’s closing plenary session, adding that media literacy is crucial to development.
“Voice Matters: Trust, but Verify!” was the topic for the panel hosted by GPSA partner Social Accountability Media Initiative (SAMI) at the conference. The session explored experiences and discussed practical challenges that may help or hinder efforts to expand media coverage of inequality and social accountability issues.
Joining SAMI Director Thomas R Lansner on the panel were Nancy Booker, assistant professor at the Aga Khan University Graduate School of Media and Communications (GSMC), which developed the SAMI project, and Bertha Phiri, programme officer of the GPSA partner Malawi Economic Justice Network (MEJN).
MEJN has just completed two rounds of workshops with nearly 90 community radio journalists in Malawi on covering social accountability issues. Social accountability aims to expand citizen participation in governance processes to ensure public authorities are more effective and more responsive to public needs and demands. GPSA projects in more than 25 countries includes monitoring budgets, and service delivery in areas such as health, water and sanitations, and education. The MEJN project in Malawi is helping communities monitor and improve school textbook delivery in several rural districts.
"Engaging community media to cover social accountability stories offers a lot of opportunities to present accurate stories that can be easily verified because they live with the issues that they are covering", stated Phiri. “We cannot have real impact if we do not have real people telling their real stories", added Professor Booker.
The panel focused on practical skills to craft collaborations among media, civil society, and government to tell evidence-based stories that promote social accountability. Building trust is a key factor, but media must not forget its responsibility to verify information and offer honest and accurate reporting.
Empowering people to make their voices heard to help monitor and improve governmental performance is a key challenge for equitable and sustainable development. Several forum speakers argued that scant media coverage of the world’s poorest and most marginalized means problems affecting them are less known and little addressed, and encouraged journalists and media houses to work more closely with local communities.
“Do we need to focus on great production values or should we rather be tapping into communities and finding voices on the ground?", asked Yusuf Omar, co-founder of “Hashtag Our Story” during a presentation on mobile reporting. “What people want isn’t broadcast quality. It’s authenticity.”
“Media is a key player in the accountability cycle,” stressed Fausta Musokwa, interim executive director of the Tanzania Media Foundation, in an interview with GPSA, which can be viewed below. “They need to be aware of what citizens’ priorities are, and by amplifying those priorities they are able to get the attention of the authorities and prompt them to act.”
Deutsche Welle Head of Programs for Africa Claus Stäcker told GPSA that while DW Africa is embracing the latest digital opportunities, “Radio is still our heart and soul. It is the strongest approach, even to rural communities. The biggest value we have is our very good network of local correspondents,” Stäcker added. “We have 240 correspondents on the ground. It gives us a special link, and helps us resist the temptation of being lecturers from the Western side.” [see video below].
Since its inception in 2012, the GPSA has been striving to empower citizens by making their voices heard and helping governments to respond effectively to their calls for action. The belief that improved advocacy communication skills are essential to fighting inequality and corruption spurred the launch of the SAMI project by GSMC in February 2015, with support from the Aga Khan Foundation.
At the DW-GMF, we asked visitors to our stand to comment on the role of media in the accountability cycle. Watch here what they have to say: