This year, the 16th Annual Highway Africa conference partners with the Global Forum for Media Development (GFMD) and as part the conference build up, GFMD Director, Bettina Peters explains the relationship between the two organisations and the decision to partner up for the 2012 summit.

Why the partnership with Highway Africa?

The GFMD and Highway Africa share a lot of the same goals and values; strengthening independent media, promoting high standards in journalism, supporting the important role media plays in building democratic and open societies and advancing human and economic development.

So, it was an easy decision for the GFMD to join forces with Highway Africa in organizing the Global Journalism and Media Development Summit.

I am very pleased that this partnership has worked, also because it means that, for the first time ever, a global journalism and media development event is taking place in Africa. This illustrates the sub-themes of our conference: Africa Rising and Giving Voice to a Changing World. There has been tremendous development in African media over the last year and it is only fitting that the GFMD has chosen Africa as the place to debate media development strategies for the future.

Who are the stakeholders of the GFMD and what does this forum seek to achieve?

The Global Forum for Media Development (GFMD) is a voluntary affiliation of media development organisations set up at world and at regional level to highlight the importance to human and economic development of free, independent, pluralistic and viable media. So, our members are media support organisations not media companies themselves. We have a wide range of different groups in membership ranging from organisations working at national level, such as, for instance, Media Rights Agenda in Nigeria to groups working on a global scale such as BBC Media Action. We currently have about 300 members in over 90 countries. Most of our members are based in the Global South.

Our main aims are:

  • To provide an international forum for the discussion of ideas, information and strategies in the field of media development, to promote common standards and to encourage cross-sector cooperation and coordination in line with the Paris Declaration Principles on Aid Effectiveness.
  • To create a platform for media development practitioners to interact with donors, governments, opinion leaders and the wider public making the case for media development as a primary pillar for advancing social, economic, and political development.

We also promote best practice methods in the media development sector through our GFMD Code of Practice for Media Development Organisations.

 

How do GFMD’s key pillars (support for free expression, media freedom and independent journalism as defined by the declarations of UNESCO), speak to the theme, Africa rising? How the media frame the continent’s geopolitical, trade and economic growth?

The GFMD believes, and this is supported by a wide range of studies and policies, that media freedom, independent journalism and pluralistic media landscapes are prerequisites of democratic and sustainable development. This principle is very much in line with the Highway Africa theme of the Global Journalism and Media Development Summit that focuses on the role media play in the continent’s political and economic growth. Without media providing relevant and trustworthy information and giving people a platform for democratic discourse, it is almost impossible to hold those in power to account. Also, African media have been at the forefront of new developments and economic growth on the continent.

Who can we expect to see attend, from which parts of the world?

By joining forces GFMD and Highway Africa can provide participants with a global view of media development. The focus, of course, will be on participation from Africa but through the GFMD the conference will have speakers and participants from around the world. African journalists attending the event will have the chance to engage with media experts, editor and policy makers from countries as far away as Mongolia or Brazil.

We will have key speakers from the world of media development, such as, for instance, Frank La Rue, the UN Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression, Waddar Khanfar, former director general of Al Jazeera, Ying Chang, Dean of Journalism at Hong Kong University or David Kaplan, distinguished investigative journalists and researcher from the Center for Independent Media in Washington.

 

Highlights to look out for?

The Highway Africa Conference 2012 in association with the Global Forum for Media Development offers exciting sessions for all kinds of interests. There will be debates with high-level media experts, practical workshops teaching journalists new skills and focused discussion groups that will develop new ideas and partnerships. One highlight is, of course, the Africa Rising panel which will frame that sub-theme of the conference.

The second panel on the first day, Freedom of Information, Transparency and Good Governance in the Digital Age will frame the sub theme of the summit; how digital, mobile media and the internet have changed our information landscape and media development.

Another highlight is the panel on the second day: Rewriting Media Ethics for the Internet Era. Maintaining high standards of journalism is a key challenge in an information environment swamped by internet sources. We will have exciting speakers on this panel. For those involved in media development, the panel on Empowering Independent Media is a must. Key representatives of donor organisations will speak at this session.

But one should not forget the wide range of workshops on offer. Journalists will have the chance to learn about data journalism skills and mining the internet for information as well as engaging with scholars on political issues, such as the role of the so called BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) in media development.

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