Blog by Derek Thorne, Head of MFC Secretariat
In May 2023 over 50 senior figures from governments, academia, the legal profession, media freedom organisations, and organisations representing journalists themselves, gathered to discuss one question: how can we maximise the impact of the Media Freedom Coalition?
Almost four years after the MFC was established, and one year after the MFC Secretariat was set up, this was an opportunity to ask what had been learned in that time and how the MFC’s core areas of work can be improved.
That “one question” is admittedly a very big one, and so in the run up to the workshop we spoke with a range of people involved in the MFC and pulled out four strategic challenges to be addressed in the discussions. They were:
- How can the MFC encourage its members to make meaningful commitments on media freedom, and ensure they are implemented?
- How can the MFC maximise the impact of its actions on cases of concern?
- How can the MFC make sure that the different aspects of media freedom, from journalists’ safety to media viability, are incorporated in its decisions and actions?
- How can the MFC ensure that all member countries, no matter where they are or how much capacity they have, can take meaningful action as part of the Coalition?
Using the event space at Canada’s Permanent Mission to the UN in New York, we hosted four discussions on these questions with the help of some excellent volunteer moderators and rapporteurs. This resulted in many pages of reflections, ideas and recommendations.
So what happens next?
The MFC Secretariat pulled together the many recommendations and worked with the MFC’s Executive Group – eight countries that lead on the Coalition’s strategic decision making – to settle on a list of priorities to take forward.
- Ensuring there is sufficient capacity to act on cases of concern, by developing a process by which other MFC member countries – beyond the co-chairs – can be more involved in responses to these cases.
- Consulting with a range of member countries on joint statements and how best to approach them to maximise their impact. This will include looking at different types of language that could be used in these statements.
- Dedicated briefing sessions/seminars for member countries on key media freedom issues. Combined with this, the MFC Secretariat will more consistently ask members about what expertise they would like to access and build this into briefings.
- Clarifying the process by which new working groups can be established within the MFC, while ensuring they are self-sufficient and responding to demand from members. Working groups are a mechanism by which member countries can collaborate with other non-government stakeholders to pursue one or more agreed objectives in a specific issue area. The MFC has one existing working group (on media development) which will be a valuable source of lessons learned.
- A comprehensive “manual” for MFC members, providing a definitive guide to every aspect of the MFC to any member contact who is new to the Coalition.
- A concise toolkit for civil society and media in member countries, to build awareness of the MFC and support them to engage their government in developing media freedom commitments.
The MFC Secretariat will take forward the above points and the aim is to complete them during the remainder of 2023. We will be sharing updates on this with the MFC’s network.
However the recommendations don’t end here – there were other points which the MFC has already been working on, or which can more easily be integrated into existing processes, such as increasing geographic diversity within the MFC and supporting member countries from all over the world to engage in the Coalition; more MFC communications concerning government progress on media freedom commitments and domestic policy; and doing more follow up on cases of concern after any intervention by the MFC.
These were by no means the only suggestions that were raised during the workshop. Indeed, the four strategic questions that were discussed are by no means the only ones that the MFC needs to contend with. However, we hope this gives a sense of what we will be prioritising in the coming months.
We would like to thank everyone who gave their time and expertise to take part in this workshop, and we hope this kind of multistakeholder conversation can take place regularly in future years.