Dear Chair, GFMD members, partners, supporters, colleagues,
Thank you all for being with us today. I am grateful that we can be here in Tirana, and finally see some of you in person. We are all excited and emotional.
I would like to start with a quote that I believe describes well the situation that we found ourselves in. Unfortunately, this is only one of the trends that are not working in favour of professional journalism. As we heard from our Albanian colleagues, and we see it around the world, even though we are seeing some of the best journalism being produced today, long term, all odds are set against us.
When we look at international development and international cooperation, COVID-19 has shown us the fragility of our institutions and the fault lines in international cooperation, just as the need for unified action is more urgent than ever.
Many international actors continue with securitised responses to multiple crises, while protection of civic space, more accountable and inclusive societies, and respect for human rights, including freedom of expression and media freedom is often an add on, an afterthought and not human rights by design.
We have been making the argument for many years why investing in journalism and media is important, and we somehow seem to be stuck at 500 and the same siloed approach, while countering violent extremism, countering misinformation and stratcom approaches are gaining momentum. Other development areas rarely recognise relevance of professional reporting for achieving their goals.
At the same time, in the digital sphere, small, non-profit, community, investigative and similar newsrooms and media are not recognised by the system. On the contrary, large disinformation operations, influencers, and troll and content farms are currently making much more money than journalism and finding ways to large audiences.
Many of our members and their partners have experienced the removal of their content and accounts by Facebook, Google Search, YouTube, and others without meaningful notice and appeal mechanisms. Instead of becoming a major provider of credible, ethical, reliable information, with clear paths for monetisation, journalists and media are relegated to the roles of fact-checkers, trusted flaggers, and occasionally grantees of big tech corporate programmes looking to capture any innovation.
These are two major influence and policy areas for our network and while one continues to be short term, mid-term priority, securing the future of journalism in new hybrid environments will continue to be a long term priority for all of us.
Even though the media development and journalism support community have an extraordinary track record in freedom of expression policy and advocacy, there are very few organisations that have the resources and expertise to effectively identify advocacy opportunities, implement research and analysis, produce adequate and relevant documents, and successfully advocate on media pluralism and viability/sustainability in both of those policy areas.
There is a resource, knowledge and expertise gap related to digital markets, competition policies, state aid rules, media pluralism, and future digital and media regulation that needs addressing for our sector to be able to appropriately advocate for the inclusion of joint policy positions into current policy discussions.
We are facing a similar situation when attempting to develop policy and advocacy addressing the wider UN system, OECD donors, World Bank and other Development Banks and related institutions, other global and regional intergovernmental bodies and initiatives, individual governments, private sector and advertising industry etc.
We also need more global voices bringing information, evidence, and local solutions to these debates. We need to reinforce their capacity.
What a journey we’ve had over the last five years. As you will see from our reports and the new network analysis, members remain dedicated and loyal to GFMD; they see value in information and knowledge exchange, policy and decision-making support, and networking.
Our main job is to connect and the connectedness of the GFMD network has improved since the previous network analysis. It appears that members are forging connections with each other and in such a way that the connections are distributed equally rather than concentrating around a select few organisations.
Yet, when looking at the Global North/South divide, we see that the connections between GFMD members are still dominated by the North.
The three most challenging issues identified about the media support sector in general include:
• issues with securing funding
• working in environments hostile to independent journalism
• and having an inability to diversify revenue
In response to these challenges, we have created spaces to talk, share knowledge and experiences and act together.
In collaboration with GFMD’s larger network and partners, we have amplified journalism and news media voices and impacted policy agendas.
As the pandemic has highlighted – now more than ever – voices representing small, local, independent journalism and media organisations need to be heard in the policy and regulatory fora in order to secure the future of professional journalism.
As we go forward every organisation and every project in our network should think about contributing to securing the future of journalism, with less competition and more working together.
This means that without policies that envisage new public funding, regulation of digital markets, and enhanced international support systems for non-profit media, independent professional journalism is in danger of becoming an expensive luxury rather than a universal public good.
Over the last five years, GFMD members, Steering Committee, our Secretariat team with generous support from our partners have succeeded in making GFMD a trusted partner and strong organisation.
Thank you all for your support and for being part of our network.
-- ENDS --
A lot has changed in the last five years for GFMD we must admit since our last global forum in Jakarta. But in terms of our mission, I am afraid many of the urgent large issues still remain great challenges for all of us, as Mira mentioned some of them: democracy and freedom of expression is threatened in many countries, the sustainability of media, in general, is still a big question mark, support for media development from foreign aid is still low, technology continues the drive the whole game and the big digital platforms have all become stronger and more powerful key players.
But precisely because we still have all those challenges and more, this network of people and organizations is needed more than ever. If I learned anything from all of you throughout these years is to be persistent and even headstrong in pursuing and not giving up on the goal of having a world where media freedom is a reality and democracy is strong. You all every day wake up and put all your energy and resources in order to achieve this and because of that, you have my total admiration and respect!
The good news however is that our organization, GFMD, is in better shape to contribute to overcoming these goals and challenges. Many things have changed in the last five years while I have been the chair of the organization and I want to highlight four:
- Financial stability
- We are providing better services to our members
- Our secretariat is more solid and now we a staff of 9 wonderful professionals from different parts of the world
- And finally, we are more influential in the sector
Those results should make us all very proud and there are so many people I would like to thank. So let me take this opportunity to say gracias to several people.
First, I want to thank Jaime Abello the general director of the Fundacion Gabo. As you know until 2018 I worked with Jaime and the Fundacion as executive director and it was Jaime that allow me to represent the Fundacion at this network. So for that and for many other things I’m thankful. Gracias Jaime if he is awake!
I want to thank my colleagues on the outgoing steering committee. All of the 18 members have been absolutely fantastic to interact with.
- Cyprian Ndikumana (Burundi), Director General of the Panos Institute, Great Lakes.
- Diana Senghor (Senegal), founder and Director General of the Panos Institute West Africa (PIWA).
- Thierry (France), advisor to the General Manager of CFI.
- Petra Berner (Germany), head of Strategy and Consulting Services at DW Akademie.
- Tihomir Loza (Bosnia and Herzegovina), Executive Director of the South Eastern European Network for Media Professionalization (SEENPM).
- Kateryna Myasnikova (Ukraine), Executive Director of the Independent Association of Broadcasters.
- Gisèle Khoury (Lebanon), President of the Samir Kassir Foundation – SKeyes Center for Media and Cultural Freedom.
- Mousa Rimawi (Palestine), co-founder and Director of the Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms-MADA.
- Owais Aslam Ali (Pakistan), Secretary-General of Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF), Chair of Pakistan Press International (PPI).
- Nezar Patria (Indonesia), member of Indonesian Press Council for 2016-2019 and Chief Editor of The Jakarta Post Digital. Co-founder and Managing Editor at VIVA.co.id.
- Denis Chabrol (Guyana), Second Vice President of the Association of Caribbean Media Workers. Publisher of Demerara Waves Online.
- Jeanne Bourgault (USA), President and CEO of Internews.
- Leon Morse - Michael Mirny (USA), Senior Media Advisor at IREX and Managing Editor of the Media Sustainability Index. Misha Mirney
- Leon Willems (Netherlands), Director for Policy and Programmes of Free Press Unlimited);
- Jesper Højberg (Denmark), Executive Director of International Media Support (IMS);
- James Deane (UK), Director for Policy and Learning at BBC Media Action;
- Joyce Barnathan (USA), President of the International Center for Journalists;
- Remzi Lani (Albania), Executive Director of the Albanian Media Institute; and
The late Jeannette Minnie (South Africa), the founder of Zambezi Fox, whose membership of GFMD’s Steering Committee was extended for a third and final term by the new GFMD Constitution, adopted on September 10, 2016.
A special thanks gracias to my colleagues on the executive committee, Jan Lublisnki and Thierry Vallat. We have been working together a lot these last months and is been a joy to work with you two. Merci, Danke!
And also to the previous secretariat: Ayman Mhanna, Stephanie Khalaf, and Caroline Giroud.
But the main gracias goes out to all of you are members that are here and connected online. It’s for you that we have done all that we have done, I said it before and will say it again: to chair this organization is been a privilege and it's been a professional career highlight.
When I was packing I decided to bring this book. These are a sort of memoirs of the publisher of one of our main news digital sites in Colombia, la Silla Vacia. It was published last year but I hadn’t read it until the plane flight. The empty chair as is called is been for 10 years and Juanita describes all the struggles she is been through to keep it independent and competitive. She is doing an amazon job I am a great admirer of what they do.