Through a series of panels and roundtable discussions moderated by distinguished media scholars and professionals, participants will examine the challenges the Egyptian media sector faces within the context of today’s evolving legislative and socio-political environment, contrast them with U.S. and global experiences, and work to outline a framework for advancing excellence in Egyptian media.
This forum will be an opportunity for leading Egyptian media professionals to engage with counterparts from the United States and around the world to assess critical components of media professionalism, ownership and regulation from a local and global perspective and work to integrate those ideas into tangible strategies for progressing Egypt’s media sector toward excellence.
Attendees will work to develop a framework for institutionalizing media objectivity and acceptable standards of conduct, analyzing varied methods for enhancing the professional cadre of media practitioners in public and private outlets within Egypt and elsewhere. Sessions will look at processes of effective government and self-regulation that promote professional conduct and balanced accountability mechanisms. The forum will further build a network of international and Egyptian media scholars, policymakers and practitioners who wish to support the development of Egypt’s media sector.
Attendees will examine standards of professionalism and methods for developing capacity building systems to foster high quality media, reviewing lessons from the United States, South Africa, Argentina, Indonesia and other countries. They will hear from foremost experts on the most critical components of media regulation, explore ownership structures and their relation to governance and transparency dynamics, and touch on ideas for promoting media pluralism and shaping the role of new media as it generates more influence in the sector.
Comparing media regulatory bodies and practices will provide vital insights into the practices in a variety of socio-political contexts that have succeeded or failed to encourage a vibrant and professional media culture. While the exchange of such ideas and analysis will not offer automatic solutions for Egypt, the forum will be formatted to allow for a diagnosis of Egypt’s media sector priorities followed by a review of international experiences addressing those issues, to position Egyptian experts to constructively explore pragmatic alternatives for promoting suitable standards for professionalism, ownership and regulation for Egypt alongside some of the world’s most respected media scholars and professionals.
The end goal of this Forum is to provide Egyptian policymakers and practitioners the opportunity to engage with global counterparts as they seek to advance Egypt’s media sector, as well as foster practical ties and cooperation that could aid the execution of those ideas in the near term.
Forum organizers will prepare a report following the Chatham House Rule outlining the recommendations articulated during the forum for circulation to participants and policymakers.
Since the January 25, 2011 revolution, media reform surfaced as a major demand of Egyptian demonstrators, experts, politicians, and practitioners. Many institutions across public, private and civil society sectors including The Press Syndicate, The National Coalition for Media Freedom, and UNESCO, worked to develop a comprehensive media policy and reconstruct media governance in Egypt. These and other institutions strove to create a legal platform for enhancing media freedom, adopt a system of self-regulation, and present alternative methods for setting and regulating media policy.
During Egypt’s three transitional periods, both public and private media enhanced democracy by monitoring political activities and journalists have even been killed and injured while reporting the escalating violence. At the same time, the media has contributed immensely to the polarization of the country, especially leading up to and following the fall of the Morsi regime. Many media owners felt pressure to preserve their political and economic interests, contributing to a lack of professionalism and an increase in hostile rhetoric.
The 2013 Constitution guaranteed media freedom and suggested three independent bodies to regulate the media. The first is the Supreme Council of Media, responsible for regulating and setting media policy in Egypt. The other two bodies will be in charge of state owned newspapers and radio. The incoming parliament will determine the laws concerning these new bodies.
As a deadline for a comprehensive vision of Egyptian media is approaching, this forum will use an international lens to evaluate the Egyptian media’s role in society and its potential for improvement, acknowledging that there is no universal formula to achieve effective media regulation that grants freedom of the press while promoting independence and professionalism. The forum will further build a network of international and domestic media experts and practitioners who care about the future of a fair and free media in Egypt.
SUMMARY OF INTERNATIONAL EXPERIENCES
Comparing media regulatory bodies and practices is vital in understanding the different contexts and experiences globally to encourage a vibrant media culture in countries with similar backgrounds as Egypt with democratic transitions over the last half-century. Exploring press regulation worldwide reveals that government guidelines and rules to encourage unrestricted but trustworthy news media are incredibly difficult to maintain. A host of profound shared challenges bring about each country’s own particular strengths and weaknesses in fostering free media. However, although there is no single solution or outline to improve media regulations, valuable perspectives can be gained through comparison and open dialogue. This forum will invite media practitioners from Argentina, South Africa, Indonesia and Malaysia to share both already existing best practices and their own ideas for their countries to improve media professionalism.
Although Argentina maintains a more robust system of news media regulations since its earlier dictatorial government through developed organizations such as its Comision Nacional de Comunicaciones (CNC), centralization and inefficiency plague the country's media. For example, the large media conglomerate Grupo Clarin has recently received criticism for corruption and its monopoly in media. It now faces legal action from Argentina's government who hopes to break the giant organization into smaller companies.
South Africa has a comprehensive system of media regulatory bodies, such as the Independent Communications Authority (ICASA) and South African Press Council. Additionally, the country hosts a diverse alternative media landscape. As harsh regulations in certain regions of the world increase rising tensions, alternative press has grown significantly. On the other hand, Malaysia’s media regulations have been criticized due to political ties, corruption, and little protection for news sources. However, possibly due to the fact that the country maintains fewer regulations on Internet media, alternative news sources are now widely utilized by the Malaysian public.
Indonesia is internationally recognized as one of the “freest” countries in Asia in terms of news media regulations and protection, due to its effective rules and bylaws. The country’s Ministry of Communications and Informatics analyzes media content and establishes proper broadcasting/publishing systems. Indonesia’s regulatory practices allow for an efficient, multi-faceted system of news media. While none of these countries can offer automatic solutions for Egypt, their diverse experiences and current challenges can inform Egyptian policymakers and practitioners with new ideas as they seek to advance Egypt’s media sector.
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