I am wondering how you are reacting to the Leveson Inquiry into the Culture, Practices and Ethics of the British press? It has revealed tales of proven and alleged illegal phone hacking by journalists, police working for newspapers, overly cozy media-politician relationships, deliberately false media stories being published, perhaps "favouritism" in deals related to the sale of media companies, file boxes required for evidence going missing and a bunch of other accusations, along with some convictions, mainly of journalists. See for example this BBC summary of week 17 of the Inquiry or this chronology of the hacking "scandal" as outlined by the BBC.
One of my reactions - once I get over the aghast phase - is to position this rather horrendous insight into how some of the most powerful and prominent media have operated, alongside how Northern media have perceived, treated and worked in relation to media in the South over the past 20 plus years - work that has often been supported by large levels of Development agency funding.
That relationship has, in my observation, been sprinkled with phrases such as: bring developing country (sic) media standards up to those of the developed world (sic); ensure media independence and freedom in the Southern countries as it exists in the North; develop Southern journalists skills to match both the critical thinking and fact-checking standards of their Northern colleagues; produce a set of media and journalism/journalist ethics in the South that are to the level of those in the North; and many more almost pet phrases - principles and concepts that look more and more misplaced as every witness appears at Leveson.
In great preponderance it has tended to be media and journalism agencies in the North that have been writing the manuals, organising and conducting the training, setting the standards, deciding and reporting on the key indicators, and providing the critical commentary. There are excellent exceptions of course - Highway Africa and FNPI in Latin America come to mind. But these exceptions simply illuminate the overall pattern. See for further example who is mainly writing and publishing media development resource and training materials When it comes to "technical assistance" there have not been many examples I can find of Africa journalists heading to the UK or the USA to critique and advise on their media standards and ethics.
The Leveson Inquiry should be a wake-up call for how we all organise the support for improved media development in all countries. It requires a much more equitable approach in relation to who is teaching who. There needs to be a more exploratory and less didactic process related to understanding, implementing and evolving some of the key media development concepts - freedom, independence and ethical standards - as opposed to seeking to "export" a set of "evolved and final" standards and practices to be met. Media assessment indicators and rankings need to be less ideological in their perspectives - public interest media with public ownership should not always produce a demerit mark - see the BBC in the UK or municipal TV in Colombia, for example.
Of course what Leveson is revealing is not an accurate and complete picture of all media and journalism in the UK. But it is simply a further compelling case for a more equitable, mutual sharing and collective approach to media development in all contexts. There are issues everywhere, not just Southern media. No single geographic group holds the eternal 5th Estate flame and truth.
What are your thoughts and reactions to the Leveson Inquiry and its implications for media development strategies?
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