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2015-01_dc

26 D+C Vol.42.2015:1 During the summer vacations, the girls’ school in Jaba on the West Bank is busy because of the sum- mer camp on media literacy. The focus is on the ability to access, understand and evaluate media information and to create media products such as daily newspapers, Facebook pages and wall newspapers. In a big class- room, 30 girls aged 13 to 16 are sitting in a circle. Samay Salah Aldin is the instructor. She forms several groups. She is working on behalf of Pyalara, a Palestinian non-governmental organisation (NGO) that gets support from DW Akademie, a German de- velopment agency. The NGO instructs teachers and journalism students how to raise awareness for me- dia literacy. The groups of girls start preparing for an inter- view. In role play, they practice asking questions and researching information concerning a topic they have picked themselves. Child labour is one, the poor con- dition of their school another one. The results are posted on a wall newspaper. “Wall newspapers make it possible for students to share their concerns and set wheels of change in motion,” says Helmi Abu Arwan of Pyalara. A few years ago, the media programmes of inter- national development agencies were largely confined to seminars for professional journalists. In the mean- time, the field of activity has become much broader and includes topics such as media literacy, digital platforms and innovative formats for mobile phones. Moreover, more attention is being paid to freedom of information issues and business models. Conven­ tional capacity building is now only one part of the spectrum. Development agencies such as DW Akade- mie provide comprehensive advisory services. They help prepare civil-society organisations for interac- tion with policy makers and they cooperate with gov- ernments and government agencies on the legislative matters. They share ideas in regional and global net- works. Changing media projects “The conceptual basis of our work has been refined,” says Petra Berner, who heads the Strategy and Con- sultancy Department at DW Akademie. “Proj­ects have become longer, more results-oriented and more strategically geared to improving the media landscape.” There has also been a significant im- provement in cooperation between the different media-related development agencies. Organisa- tions such as the British BBC Media Action, the Swiss Fondation Hirondelle, Free Press Unlimited in the Netherlands and International Media Support in Denmark are coordinating. As Berner points out, this leads to more coherence. The focus of development programmes is increas- ingly on media users. The target group is increasingly the general public, rather than merely editorial de- partments. In Bolivia, for instance, the non-govern- mental Fundación UNIR has repeatedly conducted surveys since 2006, asking people what they think of media coverage. The foundation is supported by a number of European donor agencies. In the Bolivian capital La Paz and in provincial centres and rural areas across the country, people are invited to complete questionnaires at public places such as markets or bus stations. The surveys are entitled “Tu palabra sobre las noticias” – “Your views on media reporting”. Both media makers and members of their audience appreciate this kind of discourse. The people are keen to tell journalists and the media what they think, and media profes- sionals are grateful for the feedback and pointers on the public’s information needs. Projects for improving the media system must always be seen in a wider political context. “There’s undoubtedly a close connection between media de- velopment and Bolivia’s development,” says Erick Torrico, the coordinator of the Bolivian surveys. Freedom of expression promotes democracy Since free media are essential for freedom of expression and good governance, development agencies must furnish effective support for the development of a free press, free TV and radio broadcasters as well as web-based media. Media developers are breaking new ground. By Alexander Matschke

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