The conference was organised by the European Commission in close cooperation with the European External Action Service, and with a support from the Ukrainian Government. It was one of the key preparatory events leading to the Eastern Partnership (EaP) Summit in November 2017. The Conference examined the media situation in the Eastern partner countries in the context of the European Neighbourhood policy, building on the experience of the first such conference, held in Riga, in 2015.
The Conference programme, with its focus on media development needs and those of professional journalism in the contemporary environment, triggered high interest among media professionals from the partner countries and the EU, media development organisations and donors. The event gathered more than 350 participants, thereby confirming the concern of all involved for the challenges faced by the media sector in terms of freedom of expression.
Observations and concrete recommendations from the working sessions of the conference will be published and will serve as guidelines for media development organisations and donors (including the EU). The overall thrust of the discussions and general recommendations that resulted from the event are summarised as follows:
- A healthy media environment is pivotal for achieving the fundamental goals of EU neighbourhood policy, including democracy, good governance and resilience against external pressures, as well as for effective communication of reform and the advantages of engaging with the EU in our partner countries. Addressing the needs of media and making professional journalism sustainable should be a priority in its own right within the EaP policy.
- Pluralistic and independent media is a public good. The governments in the partner countries have a responsibility for putting in place policy and regulation that helps achieve this goal. The EU, in cooperation with other international institutions, will continue to assist them in this process.
- At the same time, the EU and its partners should continue to defend the ability of journalists to work in an environment free from coercion and repression.
- Public Service Media is established by law and funded by public money. If these laws and the reforms of National Broadcasters – vastly supported by the EU and other international donors – are to be respected in practice, then putting in place adequate funding schemes is an intrinsic precondition for achieving true editorial independence of formerly state-controlled broadcasters.
- The main precondition for effective strategic communication is an undisturbed and independent media environment, enabling journalists to operate independently, think critically and transmit societally important messages. Given the deliberate attempts to contaminate the communication space by propaganda products and fake news (produced to achieve commercial benefits), the donors should continue to support strategic communication efforts undertaken by governments in cooperation with civic initiatives. Measures that indirectly support strategic communication, such as putting in place commensurate media regulation, imposing media ownership transparency requirements, increasing the independent media offer in Russian and other minority languages in partner countries, are equally important, especially in view of the organised disinformation emanating from Russia and penetrating the media scene of partner countries via different channels.
- Given the deteriorating quality in mainstream media and the steep rise in the use of social media, media literacy programmes intended to preserve and enhance critical thinking of media consumers must continue to be priority for donors.
- Across the all working sessions of the Conference, a key suggestion echoed by participants was the need for donors to provide a longer term engagement with the media beneficiaries in their assistance programmes. It was deemed critical in order to achieve the desired sustainable results under fragile economic, legal and political conditions.
- Amongst donors, the most popular form of assistance was for media training. It was stressed that the training offer should take due account of the requirements of a modern newsroom. To this end, particular attention is to be paid to media business coaching as well as the mastering of modern technologies in the service of quality journalism.
- It was important to address the needs of the local media, which is often more trusted by and closer to local audiences than national ones, but which does not always receive the same degree of attention.
- As expected, issues surrounding the economic sustainability of professional journalism, ,triggered a particular interest at the conference, however, limitations on time did not permit conference participants to elaborate on all relevant aspects of the challenge. To follow up in this area, a dedicated EaP event thoroughly examining the media business today (including the media investment climate in the EaP countries) will be considered.
- In this context, and considering the enormous challenge the media faces as a sector of industry, donors are encouraged to consider applying similar business support instruments as those used to stimulate SME development.
- Most of international and bilateral donors engaging in media development support in the EaP countries participated in the Kyiv conference. Given the increasing complexity of the task, the donors would benefit from working closer together, sharing their different experiences, assessing results and looking for innovative approaches.
- The Conference demonstrated the value of continuous exchanges with media professionals, to examine what they themselves can or should do better and/or differently. Therefore the EU– along with the existing commitment to support media in the EaP countries – will also continue promote a goal oriented dialogue among media professionals in which the EU and other donors are participants.
- More specific and concrete recommendations from the thematic working sessions of the conference provided in many ways the most practical output of the Conference and will be published to serve as a guide for everyone embarking on media development and education – and particularly for donors. They should be of particular help to the EU Delegations implementing the bulk of media assistance work in the EaP countries.
* The closing session of the conference was chaired by Peter Wagner, Director at the European Commission.
- 20 november 2017
- Naabruspoliitika ja laienemisläbirääkimiste peadirektoraat