Alma-Ata+20 Day 1 Session: Legislation and Media Pluralism
Сессия: Законодательство и плюрализм СМИ
Gwen Lister, Chair, Namibia Media Trust
Гвен Листер, Председатель, Намибия медиа траст
History of the UNESCO Declarations
Истории деклараций ЮНЕСКО
About the speaker: Gwen Lister commenced her journalism career in 1975 at the height of South African apartheid repression in Namibia. She founded The Namibian newspaper in 1985 to be the “voice of the voiceless,” to promote self-determination and independence for the country, and to train Namibian journalists. In the course of her work she incurred the wrath of the authorities and was jailed, threatened with death and charged and tried under a number of draconian laws. As a strong advocate of press freedom and free speech after independence in 1990, Lister was a founding member of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (Misa) and a co-chair of the UNESCO-sponsored conference in 1991 which authored the Windhoek Declaration on an Independent and Pluralistic Media in Africa.
Lister has been the recipient of a number of international and regional awards, including the International Women’s Media Foundation (IWMF) Courage in Journalism Award and was named a World Press Freedom Hero by the International Press Institute (IPI) in 2000. After 26 years at the helm as editor, and having steered the independent newspaper through difficult times under apartheid as well as the post-independence period when the Swapo government placed a ban on advertising in The Namibian which was recently lifted after a decade, she handed over the reins to her successor in 2011. Lister is currently Chairperson of the Namibia Media Trust, the non-profit entity which owns the newspaper, and which works to promote press freedom, media freedom and access to information as well as excellence in journalism.
О спикере: Гвен Листер начала свою журналистскую деятельность в 1975 году в разгар репрессий южноафриканского апартеида в Намибии В 1985 году она основала «Газету Намибии» , как «голос тех, у кого нет возможности высказаться», для продвижения самоопределения и независимости страны и обучения журналистов Намибии. Во время своей работы она вызывала раздражение у представителей власти и была заключена в тюрьму, где ей угрожали смертью, обвиняли и судили по драконовским законам. В 1990 после провозглашения независимости Намибии Листер как яркий сторонник свободы прессы и свободы слова стала одним из основателей Института СМИ в Южной Африке (ИСЮА) и сопредседателем проведенной под эгидой ЮНЕСКО конференции,, которая провозгласила Декларацию Виндхука о независимой и плюралистической прессе в Африке.
Листер была удостоена ряда международных и региональных наград: «За мужество в журналистике», Международный женский фонд СМИ; «Герой всемирной свободы прессы», Международный институт прессы (МИП, 2000 год. . В 2011 году Лестер передала бразды правления своему преемнику после 26 лет работы редактором, и руководителем независимой газетой в трудные времена апартеида, а также после обретения независимости, когда Народная организация юго-западной Африки (Swapo) объявила запрет на рекламу в Намибии,. Этот запрет был снят недавно после десяти лет действия,. В настоящее время Листер является председателем некоммерческой организации «Намибия Медиа Траст», которая имеет собственную газету, и действует в интересах свободы прессы, свободы СМИ, расширения доступа к информации и совершенствования журналистики.
Despite much unanimity among the world's media on the principles enshrined in the 1991 Windhoek Declaration and those which followed it, much still needs to be done to achieve a truly "independent, pluralistic and free press”, so vital for the maintenance of democracy and economic development in the world today.
Looking back to the movement towards an independent, free and pluralistic press that started in the 90s, in the words of Alain Modoux, former assistant Director General of UNESCO, who is seen as the 'architect' of the Unesco-sponsored process, “it all started with the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989”.
New winds of freedom and change blowing across Eastern and Central Europe and southern Africa at the time challenged UNESCO to finally dispense with the outdated and discredited New World Information and Communication Order (NWICO) of 1974, and agree to sponsor a meeting between East European journalists with their Western counterparts in 1990. Former Director General, Frederico Mayor's development of a 'new strategy' to engage media rather than just governments, led to suggestions that not only European, but African media too, were critical in the process. And so in the following year the 'Seminar on Promoting an Independent and Pluralistic African press' took place in Windhoek, Namibia, a country which had only just freed itself from South African apartheid occupation in terms of a UN settlement plan.
The Windhoek Declaration was historic in many ways – both for Africa and other parts of the globe. It not only gave media a platform around which to mobilise and campaign for their freedom and pluralism, especially against draconian governments on the continent largely unsympathetic to rights issues, but it also broke ground for UNESCO as it parted ways with NWICO. As part of the break from the past, UNESCO, instead of seeking the permission of member state governments, invited journalists to Windhoek on the basis of consultation with international and regional media organisations.
Described by Professor Guy Berger in the publication 'Media in Africa, 20 years after the Windhoek Declaration', and published by the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) as “an enduring gift from Africa to the globe, delivered by UNESCO”, the Windhoek Declaration set in motion similar initiatives in other parts of the world. In his words it also constituted a “profound recognition of the importance of cherishing journalism”.
First to follow Windhoek was the Declaration whose 20th anniversary we are here today to celebrate, namely Alma-Ata, adopted in Almaty, Kazakhstan, in 1992, and which extended the principles of the Windhoek Declaration for a free, independent and pluralistic media to the Asian continent.
In 1993 the UN General Assembly confirmed the day of the adoption of the Windhoek Declaration, May 3, as International Press Freedom Day. May 1994 saw the Declaration of Santiago which reaffirmed the principles of the Windhoek Declaration for Latin America and the Caribbean, and in January 1996 the Declaration of Sana'a (Yemen) validated the same principles for the Arab world. Finally in September 1997, a European seminar on independent and pluralistic media took place in Bulgaria, and the Declaration of Sofia followed other parts of the world in confirming that freedom of expression was a fundamental right.
Each of these meetings broadened, built on and further defined press freedom, and while the Windhoek meeting had originally focussed primarily on print, now the definition had been extended to include all media, including broadcast and digital.
While Modoux referred to the Windhoek Declaration as the 'mother' of those which followed, Alma-Ata, Sofia, Sana'a were all groundbreaking in their own right. Their significance also lay in the fact that "instead of telling journalists what to do, for the first time in the history of the UN system governments were following the lead of the journalists in defining the terms of press freedom, independent and pluralistic media".
Critically, the Declarations have been cemented as guidelines for the international community and culminated in a call that Article 19 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights be made binding on the world's governments, namely, that "everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media, and regardless of frontiers".
And as the 20th anniversary of the Windhoek Declaration in 2011 provided the opportunity for Africa's media to take stock of the gains and the setbacks in the two decades since its adoption, so too does the anniversary of Alma-Ata provide scope for media from this part of the world to audit the progress, as will Santiago, Sofia and Sana'a in the next few years.
The Alma Ata Declaration also came up with specific proposals in the areas of legislation, the free flow of information, public service broadcasting, training, journalist safety and other critical areas necessary for a free and independent and pluralistic media. And as you assess your own gains and losses in regard to Alma-Ata, you will find there is surely resonance with some of the issues being tackled by African media. Perhaps there is a need for us all to strive more for media to join hands across continents in order to achieve common aspirations and goals.
Circumstances may differ from country to country and continent to continent, but I believe there are similarities in the challenges faced by media across the globe and perhaps listing some of our challenges, and the way in which media are dealing with them, will be helpful to those of you assessing progress in your own part of the world.
And I will deal with some of these.
On the positive side, for the media itself, since the adoption of the Declarations, particularly in Africa, freedom and pluralism have become more widespread and there is more acceptance of their importance and role in democracy. The number of independent and private media outlets has grown, as has diversity in many countries. Initiatives to transform state broadcasters into public service broadcasters has gained momentum, although reform of state owned media has been slow and it is arguable whether governments have relinquished much of their control, which in some countries, includes radio, television and newspapers.
Much of this progress has been inspired by the Windhoek Declaration and its international endorsement. This progress did not just happen, however. It took people passionate about press freedom to build organisations, like the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA), launched in 1992 on the back of Windhoek, to advocate for press freedom.
There were various reasons for the passion and idealism which fuelled African journalists who attended the Windhoek seminar. Those from southern Africa were emerging from a draconian era where South African militarism and propaganda had dominated, silencing voices of the media and other dissent. The 'guerilla typewriters', as those fighting for independent media voices had become known, had fought for free press at great personal risk. They were emboldened by the fall of apartheid to demand a new deal for media on the African continent. Further afield, countries on the continent which had long since overthrown colonialism paved the way for autocratic governments which dominated the media landscape, in many cases prohibiting independent or private media and controlling the airwaves.
In 1991 African media felt it was time for change.
In Central Asia you experienced a similar draconian past, and media needs here perhaps to guard against replacing government repression with domination by political and other powerful interest groups. In our context, the Windhoek Declaration addressed not only the issue of press freedom, but also independence and pluralism. It emphasised that 'independent' media is defined as that which is "independent from governmental, political or economic control".
It did so because in Africa, the media which should have been the most diverse and representative of all views, that which is owned in the name of the public and administered by the state, is often the least pluralistic. It was critical for participants in Windhoek to demand an end to the monopoly of government controlled media and to create a level playing field for media diversity to thrive and to reflect the widest possible range of opinion within the community. The call for independence and pluralism lay at the heart of the Windhoek Declaration.
I've long held that governments should relinquish state control of media, and instead make the effort to ensure an enabling environment in which free, independent and pluralistic media can thrive and flourish. Fortunately, in my own country, Namibia, the government has finally realised the wisdom of withdrawing a decade-long ban on public institutions advertising in the independent newspaper I founded, The Namibian, and which has long been the country's largest daily.
Although it is accepted that the Windhoek Declaration, which focused at the time of its adoption primarily on print, is binding across all media, including new media and the internet, which were not part of the conversation over two decades ago, it became important to tackle separately the issue of broadcasting, a powerful medium on our continent. So in 2001 the African Charter on Broadcasting was adopted, which also aimed at promoting commercial and community radio. There is undoubtedly more diversity in broadcasting now, but the campaign to reform state to public broadcasters and television stations and promotion of independent regulation of broacasting, remains a still elusive goal. In countries like Namibia and South Africa there is less overt control, and much window-dressing with ostensibly independent boards, but I doubt that there is one genuinely public broadcaster in Africa today.
We all need to remember that the freedoms we strive for are not only about the media. More importantly, they are about our people themselves. And even as some progress has been made in the areas of print and broadcast journalism, a third issue is coming into focus to take the idealism of Windhoek further, namely the right to or access to information, which was also raised in the Alma-Ata Declaration. In the words of Professor Guy Berger, this is both critical to journalism as well as to citizens and groups striving for transparency and openness, and is essential to good governance and also to combat corruption. It requires governments both to empower citizens to access public information and also to promote the use of new information and communications technologies. The campaign for access to and freedom of information laws has already kicked off on the continent, and several African governments have already complied. The Campaign for an African Platform on Access to Information, culminating in the adoption of the APAI Declaration in September 2011 at a conference commemorating Windhoek +20 has gained momentum on the continent, and already Nigeria, Liberia, Uganda, Angola, Ethiopia have adopted access to information or freedom of information laws as they are variously known. Constraints still include lack of political will on the part of governments to implement these laws, and mounting concern that progress may be hampered by countering with secrecy laws which have the opposite effect and are intended instead to inhibit the free flow of information. South Africa is one such example.
While much of the focus of post-Windhoek campaigns is aimed at governments which, although committed in principle to the Windhoek Declaration, still remain reluctant to enforce its provisions, media across the continent face their own challenges. To enhance standards and professionalism, there is need to instill codes of ethics for journalists where they don't already exist, and also to promote self-regulation. Like politicians, media too need to be accountable to their public to maintain credibility, engender public trust and to reduce corruption in this sector. The Windhoek Declaration encouraged the creation of regional bodies for publishers, editors and journalists, as well as unions. Progress has been made in the area of self regulation and adherence to codes of ethics as well as to the growth of regional bodies, such as MISA and several editors fora across the continent, but much still needs to be done by media practitioners themselves to ensure they maintain high standards for the sake of the people they serve.
To summarise, huge challenges remain for the African and other media, some of which include:
* Freedom of the press, inextricably linked with the free flow and access to information, has by no means been secured, and with the increased reach of new media government have come up with new pretexts and ways in which to limit press freedom and this extends to new technologies, even though these may be harder for governments to control than traditional media. Only this week, MISA issued an alert on developments in Malawi, where a new Bill is being introduced and appears to contain sections aimed at stifling online publications.
* Repressive legal conditions remain on the statute books of many countries, and the Declaration of Table Mountain in 2007 identifies criminal defamation as one of the most severe obstacles facing the independent press in Africa. It deters investigative journalism by having a chilling effect and reduces the capacity of the media to fulfill their role of watchdog. The campaign against criminal defamation and insult laws is also gathering momentum on the continent.
* There remains a huge need to ensure more widespread access to news and information through widening the reach of new information and communication technologies on a continent where there is phenomenal growth in the mobile phone, but far less so access to the internet.
Media too need to enhance journalistic professionalism, and ensure adherence to codes of ethics applicable both to their reporting as well as to their own accountability as. Increasing signs of corruption in newsrooms and news hierarchies make it important for adoption of owner/publisher guidelines as promoted by the African Media Initiative. Traditional media cannot afford to lose credibility and trust of the people who have more choices of where to obtain their news and information.
The movement to pressure Governments to put in place freedom of information laws has gained momentum in Africa and will hopefully facilitate wider access to information.
In more countries now some form of self-regulation is in place as media try to stave off government interference, but editors fora, journalists associations, trade unions need to be further strengthened.
It unfortunately cannot be said here today that we have won the war for free, independent and pluralistic press through the adoption of Windhoek, Alma Ata and other declarations. Media still have a huge challenge on their hands to continue the fight and we should never forget that in the process, many continue to put their lives on the line.
But the sanction by world governments of these Declarations at least provide a mechanism through which to hold governments accountable, and are a focal point for the consolidation of the aspirations of journalists worldwide to work in a free environment, and more importantly for the people to have unrestricted access to information. Nowadays, across the globe, there are annual celebrations of World Press Freedom Day, which is a direct legacy of the Windhoek Declaration.
This event on the world calendar is an occasion for us to continue to measure how far we have come since 1991 and since 1992 in the case of Alma-Ata, and to push for deeper, better and wider media freedom in the interests of journalism's unique contribution to democracy and development.