Afghanistan. Photo: Haroon Sabawon
A new report produced by IMS in collaboration with Fojo Media Institute documents the many challenges of the media in South and Southeast Asia and presents recommendations for future intervention strategies to strengthen public interest journalism in the regions and contribute to the achievement of the SDGs.
The media in South and Southeast Asia are under extreme pressure. With shrinking spaces for human rights in general and freedom of expression and press freedom in particular, populist politicians on the rise in most countries, “fake news” narratives eating away at the trust in the media, and audiences that increasingly gravitate online for information and show indifference towards paying for quality content, the media struggle to live up to their ambitions of serving the public while still being financially sustainable.
At the same time the need for quality public interest journalism founded on ethical principles and rigorous techniques is ever more vital to secure the public’s access to reliable information so they can contribute to social and human development in line with the ambitions of the Sustainable Development Goals.
Support to public interest journalism
In response to the challenges, IMS and Fojo recommend in a new report intervention strategies that are in support of public interest journalism and help to secure the media’s abilities to deliver content related to stability, accountability and inclusion. In order for media to ensure rights-holders’ access to information and enable the realisation of the Sustainable Development Goals, they need to deliver quality content in a cost-effective and compelling manner, which is accessible to all groups of society, including the most vulnerable.
There is particularly potential in local and hyperlocal new media initiatives that have proven their ability to empower, to engage and to build critical communities who actively take part in developing tomorrow’s democracies. These platforms have demonstrated that new, innovative and sustainable distribution channels can be developed to reach and engage marginalised communities and create cross-border networks.
Therefore, instead of lamenting the decline of legacy media, the assessment recommends moving attention to where audiences are and support online initiatives that work towards offering public interest content and engage local communities.
The assessment was made with support from Sida in Bangkok, Thailand, and motivated by Sida’s strategy for regional development and cooperation in Asia and the Pacific region 2016-2021 as well as the Sustainable Development Goals. The study was carried out by International Media Support (IMS) and Fojo Media Institute (Fojo) in the first six months of 2017 and published in November 2017.