The flurry of well-intended, but sometimes uncoordinated efforts from especially international organisations can result in duplication and mismatch of local and international priorities for development assistance. Work to better the conditions of local communities may fail when the initiatives that seek improvement are driven more by outsiders than those they intend to benefit.

Fundamental issues like these are what IMS and many other development organisations seek to address by applying the principles of the OECD’s Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness and the Accra Agenda for Action to our work and by implementing every one of our activities in partnership with local media or civil society organisations based in the countries we work in. On an international level, we seek to work in partnership with like-minded organisations because it allows us to draw on each other’s strengths and gives everyone a better sense of how overlapping work can be avoided so that we may complement each other rather than duplicate efforts.

Throughout 2014, our partners and we initiated and continued a wide range of efforts to coordinate and improve the efficaciousness of our joint work. One of the broadest reaching efforts in this regard is the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity, which IMS alongside Open Society Foundations, UNESCO and a host of other civil society groups, UN agencies and governments are driving forward in order to improve the safety of journalists and drive down the alarming levels of impunity which prevail worldwide. One of the key focus areas of the Plan of Action is to promote the establishment of nationally led safety mechanisms that are anchored with local institutions. Depending on the context, these mechanisms can include everything from the monitoring of violations against journalists, police protection schemes, collaboration between groups like journalist unions and authorities, to reforming or establishing laws that strengthen the safety of journalists.

In Pakistan, under the umbrella of the Plan of ­Action, major strides were taken by the IMS-­supported ­Pakistan Coalition on Media Safety towards introducing a journalist safety law and establishing a special prosecutor. After having been drafted through a broad representative process, the bill is set to go to parliament in 2015. In South Sudan and Iraq, also under the Plan of Action, we worked in close collaboration with local partners to improve the strained relations between security forces and journalists. In Iraq, this involved setting up a special committee that oversees the implementation of two IMS-facilitated agreements regulating the relationship between the two groups. In Nepal, work to push forward the establishment of a safety mechanism anchored with the country’s National Human Rights Commission continued in close partnership with the Federation of Nepali Journalists. The mechanism follows from, amongst other things, years of coordinated work by the Nepal International Media Partnership, an alliance between IMS and over a dozen other media development and freedom of expression groups.

Work to coordinate support to the heavily beleaguered media in Syria continued in 2014 in close collaboration with the Global Forum for Media Development. A group of international media development organisations and Syrian media stakeholders met to share and map ongoing efforts inside and outside Syria and identify needs and common priorities. The meetings proved vital in sharing understandings of needs and to develop priorities for next steps in the rapidly developing Syrian media sector and security context.

In Myanmar, the cornerstone to future access to information legislation was laid when representatives of 80 different organisations from across Myanmar met in Yangon with IMS and the Centre for Law and Democracy to develop an understanding of the key principles underlying the right to information. Such broad meetings are key to ensure citizen engagement and input into formulating strong laws that in turn ensure government transparency. In September, the third annual conference on media development in Myanmar with media, government and international organisations, resulted in shared recommendations on how to address issues that must be overcome for the media environment to progress as the country’s democratic transition unfolds.

“This is a unique model of collaboration and partnership. Our accomplishments will be an inspiration for governments and civil society around the world,” said keynote speaker Yuen Ying Chan of Hongkong University at the third Myanmar Media Development Conference.

On a regional level in the Middle East and North Africa, IMS continued its support to what is known as the Casablanca process where experts from Egypt, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco and Tunisia share knowledge of media law reform processes and issues related to broadcasting regulation, media associations and independent regulatory bodies. The Casablanca process takes place as part of our commitment to connect local media and civil society organisations with each other to ensure optimal sharing of experiences and best practices.

A show of solidarity

Politiken’s campaign raised funds for the production and distribution of five Syrian newspapers. Photo: IMS

In partnership with Politiken, one of Denmark’s largest daily newspapers, IMS worked to support the Syrian Network for Print Media, a unique partnership of five newspapers in Syria.

In a show of solidarity with Syria’s hard-pressed independent media, readers of Politiken donated nearly 650,000 Danish kroner (€87,000) when a fundraising campaign was launched in September in support of production and distribution of the five newspapers.

In a clear illustration of the complementarity between our long-term efforts and the IMS-coordinated journalist safety fund — which relies on a partnership with the Danish Union of Journalists — journalists and editors from one of the Syrian papers which would later become part of Syrian Network for Print Media, received urgent financial assistance when they came under threat for doing their job earlier in the year. The support made it possible for the newspaper to stay in business, continuing its distribution of news and information to Syrians inside and outside the country as the devastating conflict continued.