SEE Media Observatory: Why to observe media in SEE?
A regional initiative and a partnership of civil society organisations aiming to address obstacles to democratic development of media systems.
For more than a decade civil society organizations connected in the South East European Network for Professionalization of the Media (SEENPM) have been raising voices to promote and protect values of free, independent and responsible media in their countries and on regional level. Some of them, like Albanian Media Institute, Media Center Sarajevo, Novi Sad School of Journalism or Center for Independent Journalism in Budapest have been part of that struggle since mid 1990s.
At the end of 2012, an initiative involving seven members of the SEENPM has gained a support of the European Commission to address and challenge current problems with media freedom and pluralism in the region.
»Today’s Balkan press functions more as an extension of politics than a representation of public opinion, and a sizeable portion of the media continues to be controlled by powerful political groups« said Remzi Lani, director of the Albanian Media Institute.
South East European Media Observatory is a regional initiative and a partnership of civil society organisations aiming to address obstacles to democratic development of media systems by providing a regional instrument for media research and monitoring, support to investigative journalism and civil society engagement. It also offers a regional framework for debates, consultations and coalitions among key stakeholders, seeking to inform and influence media reform processes.
SEE Media Observatory particularly addresses the problems with integrity of media and journalism in the region, focusing on harmful patterns of media ownership and media finances.
In 2013 and 2014 the regional observatory concentrates on media integrity in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia and Serbia.
SEE Media Observatory addresses problems identified through national and regional research, monitoring and debates organized in past decade by the network SEENPM and other actors, and emphasized in reports and discussions on the situation with media freedom in the region.
The observatory adapts the notion of “media integrity” to capture whole set of indicators of qualities of the media sector crucial for its ability to serve public interest and democratic processes. In order to grasp the scale of the issues covered by the concept of media integrity the risk indicators have been identified on the level of media policy development and implementation, but also on the level of media structures and institutions, as well as on the level of media practices and contents. Within that analytical framework the media integrity research of the SEE Media Observatory will put special focus on media ownership and finances, but also examine the position of journalists.
The media integrity research will be guided by the following key research questions:
Whether and in which way media systems in the countries of SEE integrate risks of institutional corruption and political clientelism? How these risks influence ability of media to serve public interest and democratic role? Particularly, how they are manifested in four areas: media policy development and implementation, media structures and institutions (specifically media ownership, finances and public service broadcasting), journalists and media practices (content)? Which policies, structures and practices can be considered “agents of change” in terms of protection of media integrity and advancing democratic media reforms?
By applying the concept of media integrity the SEE Media Observatory will:
1. Search the field of media integrity through research and investigative journalism
2. Deliver the findings through online and print platforms
3. Debate the findings with key players through online platforms and at public events on national and regional level
4. Change the field – influence media reforms through advocacy by civil society organizations included in the regional partnership, but also by other media NGOs which will receive financial support for their campaigns.
Support to investigative journalism and civil society
Two sub-granting schemes will be provided by the SEE Media Observatory: in 2013, five grants will be given to investigative journalism teams, and in 2014, five grants to civil society organisations for actions aimed at protection and promotion of media integrity.
The SEE Observatory will support investigative journalists to disclose corrupt practices undermining the proper functioning of free, independent, pluralistic and viable media in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia and Serbia. In coopeation with the Guardian Foundation it will also provide a regional workshop for investigative journalists.
The observatory will initiate several other regional meetings, aimed at capacity building of relevant actors but also at exchange of knowledge and experience, and at public discussion on the findings of the media integrity research and investigative journalism findings. It will incude initiative of the SEE Media Observatory for a regional meeting of anti-corruption bodies on the issue of media integrity.
Web site, books, debates
Regional web site of the SEE Media Observatory will serve as online platform for publication and promotion of ideas, documents, analyses and reports of the project partnership, but also for initiating debates and reflections by other actors.
The research findings of the SEE Media Observatory will also be published in books in each respective country, and in a joint one.
The ideas, findings of the research and investigative journalists, and recommendations for policy changes will be promoted through debates and advocacy actions on national, regional and European level.
Who we are?
The regional partnership includes most relevant and vital national civil society organisations in five countries aspiring for EU membership (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia and Serbia) and two neighbouring EU member states (Hungary and Slovenia) engaged in efforts for media professionalization and media policy changes in their countries. The partners are: Peace Institute, Ljubljana (project leader), Albanian Media Institute, Tirana, Media Center Sarajevo, Investigative Journalism Center, Zagreb, Center for Independent Journalism, Budapest, Macedonian Institute for Media, Skopje, and Novi Sad School of Journalism.
It also includes CSOs from three other countries (Kosovo, Montenegro and Turkey) as observers in the first period , with plan to extend tools and activities to these countries in the second period (2015 and 2016). In the part which is aimed at strengthening of investigative journalism the regional observatory includes a peer-to-peer support of the Guardian’s investigative and data journalists, through the Guardian Foundation, which has been for more than 10 years a supporter and partner of the civil society organizations connected in the regional network SEENPM.
SEE Media Observatory is financially supported by the the European Union Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance, Civil Society Facility Programme.
In 2013 and 2014 the SEE Media Obervatory activities have been supported by the Open Society Foundations Program on Independent Journalism, Konrad Adenauer Stiftung Media Program for South East Europe, Open Society Foundation Serbia, Office for Cooperation with NGOs within the Government of the Republic of Croatia, Government of the Autonomous Province of Vojvodina, Department for International Development Cooperation Policies of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Slovenia, and the Guardian Foundation.
Relevant past projects:
Previous joint policy research and advocacy projects of the SEENPM which are connected to the work of the SEE Media Observatory include:
- Media Ownership and Its Impact on Media Freedom and Independence in Post-socialist countries of SEE and CEE (2003/2004); A regional research and advocacy project mapping media ownership patterns and their impact on media freedom and independence in 18 post-socialist countries of South East, Central and Eastern Europe. Coordinated by the Peace Institute as a member of the SEENPM.
- Labour Relations in the Media in SEE (2004); A regional research and advocacy project exposing problems with labour relations in the media in the region.
- The Business of Ethics, the Ethics of Business in SEE (2005); A research and advocacy project exposing good and bad practices in the media business in the region.
- The Ethics and Journalism in South East Europe (2006); A regional research and advocacy providing comparative analysis of journalistic profession on the basis of survey on professional ethics among journalists in 6 countries in the region.
- Freedom of Speech in SEE - Media Independence and Self-Regulation (2007); A comparative research project on self-regulation and regulation of defamation and protection of sources in the region.
- Patterns of Political Instrumentalisation and Clientelism in the Media in South East Europe (2007); A project exploring patterns of political instrumentalisation of the media in the countries of former Yugoslavia through production of short TV reports and regional meeting of stakeholders. Coordinated by the Peace Institute as a member of the SEENPM.
- Professional Journalism and Self-regulation: New Media, Old Dilemmas in South East Europe and Turkey (in cooperation with UNESCO in 2011) etc. A regional project aiming at strengthening professional journalism in self-regulation in the region, providing country analysis and series of national and regional debates.