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«Report on the impact of the UNESCO Media Development Indicators assessments July 2013 This paper was prepared for UNESCO by Mariona Sanz Cortell in ...»

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Report on the impact of the

UNESCO Media Development Indicators


July 2013

This paper was prepared for UNESCO by Mariona Sanz Cortell in June-July 2013.





i) Evidence of policy changes following MDI applications

ii) The MDIs as an advocacy tool in policy-changing processes


i) Examples of interventions related to Category 3: Media as a platform for democratic discourse ii) Examples of interventions related to Category 4 and 5: Professional capacity building and infrastructural capacity


i) Opening a dialogue ii) Empowerment and capacity building


i) Strengthening UNESCO´s position as an active, neutral and credible actor in media development ii) Framework for strategic planning of CI activities and IPDC projects iii) Establishment of partnerships and synergies with other organizations working in the country






This study aims to address the impact of the completed UNESCO Media Development Indicators (MDI) assessments, which have analyzed the media environments of Bhutan, Croatia, East Timor, Ecuador, Egypt, Gabon, Jordan, the Maldives, Mozambique and Tunisia; and to evaluate the influence of the reports that are currently being implemented in more than a dozen other countries, namely: Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Côte d’Ivoire, Dominican Republic, Iraq, Liberia, Nepal, Palestine, South Sudan, Togo, Uganda and Uruguay. This paper also takes into account the cases of Benin, Qatar and the regional assessment involving Croatia, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Serbia, where other stakeholders have taken ownership of the tool to conduct partial or complete assessments of the media landscape.

UNESCO’s MDIs are a unique analytical tool to evaluate media landscapes and determine the areas in which intervention is most needed. The indicators were created through a widespread consultation process involving experts, media practitioners, intergovernmental organizations, non-governmental organizations and professional associations from all regions of the world; and are based on the theoretical framework of the Windhoek Declaration and the subsequent declarations on Promoting Independent and Pluralistic Media adopted in Almaty, Santiago, Sana’a and Sophia. The MDIs were finalized and unanimously endorsed in 2008 by the Intergovernmental Council of UNESCO’s International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC). Since then, they have become accepted as an internationally recognized and legitimated framework for assessing media development.

The MDI indicators are structured around five categories: legal and regulatory framework, plurality and diversity of media, media as a platform for democratic discourse, professional capacity building and infrastructural capacity. Most MDI-based assessments that have been carried out by UNESCO cover all these areas and thereby provide a complete picture of the state of media development in all its aspects.

In some cases, however, rapid assessments or partial ones focusing on selected categories have been prioritized for practical reasons, for example in countries where there was an urgency for information in order to be able to contribute to the drafting of media laws. The findings in each category are followed by practical and comprehensive recommendations for change. Consequently, the MDI research exercise provides an overview of the conditions necessary for the media to effectively contribute to plural and democratic societies. The application of the indicators to a given country is typically done in a multistakeholder fashion, and the results are widely disseminated. With the support of UNESCO headquarters, MDIs are quality controlled to ensure the integrity of research findings and the alignment of recommendations with international standards.

Structure This research paper is divided into two sections: the first analyzes the impact of the assessments and the second identifies efficient follow-up activities and offers recommendations in this area. This structure is designed to enable readers to get a general overview of the different types of effect of the MDI assessments, followed by information on how these results have been achieved or promoted. Learning from the experiences of past MDI assessments can be useful for cases where the implementation of the MDIs is being undertaken or considered.

The types of influence that the MDI assessments have had, as identified during the research phase of this paper, have been divided into four categories, which are presented in the first section of this paper. The first category refers to the impact of the MDI assessments in assisting the development of governmental policies and laws regarding the media sector and provides practical examples of policy and legal changes that have occurred after the implementation of the MDIs, in line with the recommendations of the reports. This section also deals with the various cases where the MDIs are being used as an advocacy tool to promote legal reform.

The second category covers how these evaluations assisted in guiding media-related interventions in the numerous areas in which non-state actors, such as media organizations, journalists associations, civil society organizations (CSOs) or local and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs), play a key and active role in the shaping of the media sector.

The third category relates to how the MDI assessment process itself has contributed to promoting dialogue between the different stakeholders, including in highly polarized environments, and to the empowerment of the various actors involved, who have gained knowledge on internationally agreed standards in the media sector. The process is also assessed in terms of its benefit to building the research capacities of the academic institutions with which UNESCO partnered for the implementation of the assessments.

The last category of the first section describes the impact the assessments have had on UNESCO itself and on its activities in the area of Communication and Information, by explaining the effects of the reports in strengthening UNESCO’s position as a neutral and credible actor in media development, in facilitating strategic planning and programming of media-related projects such as via the International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC), and in promoting partnerships and synergies with other organizations working in the country.

The second section of this study focuses on follow-up activities that can help maximize the impact of the MDI assessments. It explains the wide range of activities promoted in countries following the implementation of the MDIs, and their positive potential effects. Various projects and events can help raise awareness and create opportunities for discussion and collaborative work among the different stakeholders. These can be particularly beneficial in encouraging the government to work on the implementation of the recommendations, identifying possible partnerships and convincing donors of the need to finance media development.

Finally, the study includes a section with recommendations on how to increase the value of the MDIs in developing policy, based on the information obtained for the report. These recommendations are aimed at increasing the MDIs’ contribution to fostering a free, pluralistic and independent media landscape that enhances freedom of expression.

Methodology The paper builds upon more than 20 interviews with the UNESCO field officers who were responsible for the assessments, as well as with the media experts involved in these projects. This information was supplemented by desk-based research on the media-related policy changes that have occurred in the covered countries since the implementation of the MDIs.



The impact of the MDI assessments in contributing to the policies of the Government and other national authorities is perhaps the most obvious effect as it implies tangible changes in the legal and policy framework. It is however often problematic to establish, as the process of decision-making inside the governmental offices is frequently opaque and there are numerous actors and other influences at work.

Even when policy changes are in line with the MDI-based recommendations, a direct link between the assessments and the subsequent policy changes is difficult to ascertain.

However, several cases of probable impact can be demonstrated and have been explained by the experts and UNESCO CI professionals interviewed within the framework of this study. These professionals have followed the media changes in the different countries and have, in some cases, advised decision-makers during the drafting of the laws and the decrees. It should be underlined that in many of these cases, the MDIs’ influence was not the only factor contributing to the policy change. For this reason, the report seeks to specify when, to our knowledge, previous efforts or efforts by other stakeholders have also had a determining role in developing policy.

Generally speaking, the analyzed cases show that the MDI assessments have a greater impact when they are carried out in countries where there is willingness for change, and where policy makers have an interest in identifying ways of improving the enabling environment for a free, independent and pluralistic press. Where a Government is considering media-related reforms, the MDI assessment can be effective in helping to guide them in choices that align with international standards.

For this reason, UNESCO has often prioritized working with interested countries where deep political or social change was taking place (like Tunisia and Egypt) or where the legal framework in which the media operated was undergoing reform (The Maldives and East Timor). In some of these cases, a “rapid assessment” preceded the full assessment to avoid “missing the boat” and producing the report too late.

In other countries, the assessments have been linked to the process of development of national media strategies (as it is currently the case in Palestine or South Sudan), or have been carried out at the Government’s request, as in Bhutan, Jordan and Mozambique.

It is important to note that even if deep political change is taking place and the MDI assessment responds to a governmental request, there is understandably no guarantee the Government will execute and the Parliament legislate according to the report’s recommendations. In addition, even when the recommendations are taken into account in the drafting of new media strategies, policies or laws, the process can be very slow or even be interrupted by changes in Government after elections or political crisis. Alternatively, as one researcher noted, “governmental changes can increase the interest of the decision-makers in the assessments’ recommendations”. The process of opening a window of opportunity can happen later than the completion of an MDI assessment, but when this happens, reports “can have a second or third life”, as one UNESCO CI advisor highlighted.

Finally, it is important to note that the first MDI assessments started in 2008 and many of them have been completed recently, between 2011 and 2013. Therefore, it is possible that a subsequent impact analysis in a few years’ time could identify many other examples of impact.

i) Evidence of policy changes following MDI applications Bhutan is one of the countries where the assessment, completed in 2010, was carried out at the Government’s request and where there was willingness for change among the authorities and the media sector. As a result of a liberalized media policy, the country had experienced a rapid increase of media outlets, mainly print press and private radio. In this context, the UNESCO MDI assessment was implemented with the backing of the King and the Ministry of Information and Communications as part of the modernization programme of the country. According to one of the interviewed experts, the MDI assessment and its recommendations formed the basis of the governmental agenda for a three-year plan on media development.

The MDI assessment recommended the Government to revise and amend the long and intricate existing media law. According to a media development expert familiar with Bhutan, the MDIs contributed to the process of preparation of an amendment to this law, which is expected to be taken to Parliament soon.

The Government is also working to separate broadcasting regulation from content regulation, until now jointly under the mandate of the Bhutan InfoComm and Media Authority (BICMA). This action follows the MDI recommendation to “review the BICM Act so as to simplify its provisions and introduce regulations for establishing a Media/Press Council as a self-regulatory mechanism”. Specifically, the Administration has asked international consultants to develop a charter for including the creation of an Independent Press Council in the amendment of the media law.

Furthermore, in 2012 the Bhutanese Government provided journalists with financial resources to help them create the Journalists Association of Bhutan (JAB), which may be seen as aligned in part to the MDI recommendation to “create an enabling environment to promote the establishment of associations of media professionals and journalists” inasmuch as the association can retain its professional autonomy.

However, the association is still not registered due to legal issues that need to be resolved.

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