Earlier this year the MFC Secretariat prepared a survey which was sent to the key stakeholders within the Coalition’s network. The aim was to find out what these stakeholders think about the Coalition’s activities and impact – and to give the Secretariat some pointers on how to improve this work in future.
I will come to some interesting highlights in a moment but firstly, who completed it? The survey received 43 responses and, while those respondents were able to stay anonymous, we know how they engage with the MFC, as shown below. Altogether it shows that 56 per cent of respondents came from government while 44 per cent were non-governmental.
The survey asked how the respondents perceived the impact of the MFC. It was encouraging to see the majority of respondents saying that the MFC was “making a valuable contribution to promoting media freedom around the world” – although the majority of those agreed with this sentiment “to some extent” rather than “definitely”.
Furthermore, when we divide the responses into governmental and non-governmental, we see that governments have a more positive view of the MFC’s contribution. This is perhaps not surprising, since one of the goals of non-governmental stakeholders such as the Consultative Network is to hold the MFC to account. A more critical view of the MFC would align with this.
The above chart also shows that among government respondents, 13 per cent didn’t have a view on this question. Does that mean they are not receiving sufficient information about the MFC’s activities and impact?
Luckily, we asked about this too. The below chart shows that slightly less than half of all respondents felt “definitely” well-informed about the MFC and its work. This is an area of particular interest for the MFC Secretariat, which is responsible for communicating about the MFC within its network and externally.
How might we improve on these figures? The comments provided by respondents included a helpful suggestion which has since been taken up – the production of an “overview document” capturing everything the MFC does and how member countries can engage. This is in process and will hopefully be finalised in Q4 of 2023.
In addition to this, since this survey was carried out we have started producing case studies and impact articles explaining the human impact of the MFC’s work. You can find these on the news page.
One respondent pointed to the importance of communicating about the MFC’s impact “even when results are achieved away from the public eye”. This has been a key challenge since much of the MFC’s work on cases of concern involves private diplomacy. The annual Activity Report produced earlier this year was an attempt to address this by aggregating the numbers of cases the MFC worked on, rather than details of each one. But we are keen to hear other suggestions on how to achieve this.
Another key role of the Secretariat, and a focus over the last year, has been to ensure clear systems and processes are in place for various aspects of the MFC’s work, such as addressing cases of concern when they are raised by the Consultative Network or a member state. The survey asked about this – though it only put the question to the stakeholders who work with these systems.
The results suggest we still have a little way to go on this issue – in future we would want to see more respondents saying they “definitely” feel these systems are robust and appropriate (and fewer disagreeing altogether). However, we need to be mindful that many of these processes are still evolving, particularly as we learn lessons about what works and what doesn’t. This has been a key feature of the past year.
There were a number of other points that came through in the survey results, both from the data and the comments, including:
- The importance of the multistakeholder approach. While it is only countries that can be formal members of the MFC, the Coalition chose early on to collaborate closely with other important stakeholders in the media freedom field, including civil society, legal experts, and UNESCO. Critically, it is through these stakeholders that the MFC hears about the realities facing journalists around the world. Multiple respondents emphasised the importance of taking this approach across the MFC’s work and deepening it wherever possible.
- More opportunities for direct interaction, including face-to-face. This would be one way of deepening collaboration between stakeholders, and the MFC’s in-person workshop in May 2023 was one effort to do this. The Secretariat has also started facilitating briefing sessions for member states on key media freedom topics, which – while being virtual – do offer an opportunity for direct interaction between governments and other stakeholders from across the MFC’s network and beyond.
- Using the knowledge produced by the MFC’s stakeholders. Some respondents noted the wealth of media freedom knowledge being produced by organisations within the Consultative Network, as well as the High Level Panel and UNESCO. Does the MFC use this sufficiently? Earlier this year, the Consultative Network began curating “recommended reading” which is sent monthly to members, while the High Level Panel and UNESCO also recommend their own papers and resources. We hope the briefings mentioned above will also contribute to this.
- Subtly differing views of which activities the MFC should prioritise. When asked about the MFC’s activities, whether within or outside government, respondents agreed on the importance of acting on cases of concern, acting through embassies, and promoting legal reforms that enable media freedom. The only clear difference concerned the MFC’s engagement in events: government respondents put greater importance on this than those outside government.
We plan to do this survey in future years and it will be interesting to see what changes. If you have any questions on the above – or suggestions for how to better address the feedback we received – you are welcome to contact us.