Media development

Media development

Many organizations engage in efforts to help the development of free and independent media in countries around the world. These efforts can take many forms, from funding the establishment of an entirely new media outlet to assisting an existing outlet in improving its professional capacity.

Common efforts at independent media development include: journalist training and education; improving the legal environment for media; efforts to improve the sustainability of existing outlets; media literacy training; digital media training and integration; infrastructure development; and monitoring and evaluation efforts.


Media Development vs. Media for Development

Some development organizations and experts make a distinction between media development and media for development. "Media development" refers to efforts to directly improve the media in a society (through the means mentioned above). "Media for development" refers to more indirect efforts at using existing media to convey messages about specific development issues. Such efforts include many ICT for Development (ICT4D) projects. Media for Development has been applied to education, healthcare, business, disaster relief, corruption, minority empowerment, and local community engagement, among other development goals.

Media Development Organizations

While development of the media sector is a common activity of many development organizations, there are a small number that engage in direct media development as their primary purpose. In the U.S., the three main media development implementers are Internews, the International Center for Journalists, and IREX.

American Groups Involved in Direct Media Development


Internews is an international media development organization whose mission is to empower local media worldwide to give people the news and information they need, the ability to connect, and the means to make their voices heard.

Internews has worked in over 70 countries and trained over 80,000 people in media skills. Together with local partners, Internews activities include establishing and supporting media outlets, journalist associations, and broadcast networks. Internews also has special programs to improve reporting on the environment, humanitarian crises, public health and women’s issues.

Formed in 1982, Internews Network is a 501(c)(3) organization headquartered in California. The organization currently works in Africa, Asia, Europe, the Middle East, and North America. [1]


The International Center for Journalistsis a non-profit, professional organization located in Washington, D.C., that promotes quality journalism worldwide in the belief that independent, vigorous media are crucial in improving the human condition. Since 1984, the International Center for Journalists has worked directly with more than 55,000 journalists from 176 countries. Aiming to raise the standards of journalism, ICFJ offers hands-on training, workshops, seminars, fellowships and international exchanges to reporters and media managers around the globe.[2]

ICFJ operates the Knight International Journalism Fellowships program, which sends media professionals from around the world to developing nations to improve the media there.[3]

ICFJ also operates the International Journalists’ Network (IJNet), which serves as an online resource for journalists around the world to communicate with one another and improve their own journalism standards and practices.[4]


International Research & Exchanges Board (IREX) is an international nonprofit organization providing leadership and innovative programs to improve the quality of education, strengthen independent media, and foster pluralistic civil society development. IREX designs education programs and provides consulting that support lifelong learning. Programs focus on primary and secondary levels, through higher education, and continuing into professional training.[5]

IREX also publishes the Media Sustainability Index (MSI), which provides in-depth analyses of the conditions for independent media in 76 countries across Africa, Europe, Eurasia, and the Middle East.[6]

Media Development Loan Fund

Media Development Loan Fund (MDLF) is a New York-registered 501(c(3) nonprofit corporation and mission-driven investment fund that provides low-cost financing to independent news outlets in countries with a history of media oppression. Through low-cost capital (mainly loans), business training and other advice and support, it aims to help news outlets committed to responsible journalism become commercially sustainable, believing that only financially independent news media can stay editorially independent over the long term.

In 1998 MDLF also founded CAMP (Centre for Advanced Media-Prague)which provided technology support to independent media in developing countries. In 2010, MDLF spun off CAMP as an independent organization, Sourcefabric, whose mission is to provide independent media outlets with the open source software, tools and support they need to produce the news.

American Government Organizations Involved in Media Development

The U.S. government provides about half of American funding of media development abroad.


The U.S. Agency for International Development is the largest single U.S. funder, public or private, of independent media abroad. It spent $52.7 million in 2006 on international media sector development—about 37 percent of American funding, according to a study by the Center for International Media Assistance.[7]

USAID’s Office of Democracy and Governance (DCHA/DG) manages roughly $500,000 annually for media-related work. The bureau has two full-time media experts on staff who are consulted on media projects around the world.

USAID’s Office of Transition Initiatives (OTI), which was created in 1994 to provide a quick response mechanism in times of crisis, including post-war situations, spent $3 million on international media sector development in 2006.

The Europe and Eurasia Bureau (E&E) currently manages $130,000 annually to support publication of the Europe and Eurasia Media Sustainability Index, but its influence extends well beyond that amount. E&E’s media advisor works with mission offices in the region, where most funding decisions are made, on how best to allocate resources for media work.

U.S. State Department

The State Department’s largest single funder of independent media sector development is its Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (DRL), which spent $11.8 million on the sector in 2006. U.S. embassies, through ambassadors’ funds and other sources, also provide considerable funding of local media projects. Other State Department bureaus, such as the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration, also support international media work.

The Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI), which was created in 2002 to promote democracy in the Middle East, included approximately $3 million to support independent media in 2006.


The Broadcasting Board of Governors is responsible for all U.S. government-sponsored, nonmilitary broadcasting for international audiences. This includes the Voice of America, Alhurra, Radio Sawa, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Radio Free Asia, and Radio and TV Martí. BBG’s total budget for fiscal year 2006 was $645 million, of which $1.5 million went to the training of international journalists, according to the CIMA survey.


The Millennium Challenge Corporation, founded in 2004, is a government corporation tasked with assisting some of the world’s poorest countries. Dollar amounts are tied to countries’ progress on several key indicators, including improved press freedom. MCC has incorporated media development in at least five of the countries: Malawi, Moldova, Niger, Tanzania, and Ukraine.

Other American Groups

Knight Foundation

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation “promotes excellence in journalism worldwide and invests in the vitality of 26 U.S. communities where the Knight brothers owned newspapers.” The Knight Foundation is one of the largest funders of direct media assistance in the U.S. It is also responsible for helping fund and launch some of the most innovative programs in media development, including GFMD and the Knight News Challenge.

Knight also funds the Knight International Journalism Fellowships (along with the Gates Foundation).[8]


The Open Society Institute is a network of foundations founded by billionaire George Soros. While it once operated primarily in Eastern Europe, it now has programs worldwide. Though OSI is the largest private funder of media development, media is only a part of OSI’s activities, particularly in the following programs: Information Program, Media Program, and Open Society Justice Initiative.

Other U.S. Funders of Media Assistance

There are a number of foundations and other organizations in the U.S. that are responsible for a significant amount of media assistance funding, yet without a program engaged in direct “media development.” These projects are often called “communications for development” and are a very common form of media development.

Freedom House

Freedom House does two major surveys every year – Freedom in the World, and Freedom of the Press. Along with IREX’s MSI and Reporters Without Borders’ Press Freedom Index, this is one of the essential indexes of press freedom worldwide. Unlike the MSI, it covers every country in the world, but does not do so in depth (though still provides a brief analysis of each country).


The U.S. Institute of Peace is funded by the government much like NED is. However, its board is appointed by Congress, so they lack the independence that NED has. USIP’s media programming is part of its larger goal to promote peace worldwide.

Search for Common Ground

Search for Common Ground does some journalism training as well as producing material for radio and TV stations in various locations around the world. Their media arm is called “Common Ground Productions.”

Other Advocacy Organizations

Reporters Without Borders—RSF monitors press freedom violations and releases an annual Press Freedom Index that ranks countries based on their score, with a higher number indicating more press freedom violations.

Committee to Protect Journalists—CPJ is a nonprofit that “defends the rights of journalists to report the news without fear of reprisal.” It also keeps track of journalists injured or killed worldwide.

The Dart Center for Journalists & Trauma—based at the University of Washington, Dart does workshops on journalist safety.

Developing Radio Partners—DRP is a nonprofit that develops community radio in developing countries.

The Poynter Institute—Poynter trains journalists online and on site at its St. Petersburg, Florida campus.

Investigative Reporters and Editors—IRE, based at the University of Missouri, is the world’s oldest and largest association of investigative journalists and it trains several thousand journalists each year.

The International Women's Media Foundation—IWMF is a global network of women journalists that runs leadership and training seminars in 22 countries.

Visual Editors is a non-profit charity that provides online resources for developing journalists and low-cost seminars in four countries.

Academic Programs

There are a number of academic programs at universities around the country that do work on media development issues or engage in media development of their own.

The University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School of Communication has a Center for Global Communication Studies (CGCS)

George Washington University’s School of Media and Public Affairs (SMPA)

Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) runs an International Reporting Project that works with U.S. journalists to encourage more international reporting

Harvard University’s Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy often publishes reports on relevant topics in media assistance

The Nieman Foundation (also at Harvard) runs a fellowship program for journalists (both U.S. and international) to come learn at Harvard

Stanford University runs a similar fellowship program called the John S. Knight Fellowships for Professional Journalists

International Groups Involved in Media Development

BBC World Service Trust

The BBC World Service Trust is a British implementer that does direct media development work. It is active in over 40 countries and on every continent. While all its programs are media development-oriented, they focus on Emergency response, Health, Governance and human rights, Education, Environment, and Livelihoods.

The Trust is funded by external grants and voluntary contributions, mainly from the UK's Department for International Development (DFID), the European Union, UN agencies, and charitable foundations. They also receive a small amount of core support from the BBC (both in kind and cash).[9]


The Department for International Development is the British government's main foreign aid agency. It is a significant funder of media development around the world. Similar to USAID (see above), media development is often a secondary goal within larger projects.

Journalists for Human Rights

Main Article: Journalists for Human Rights

jhr (Journalists for Human Rights) is an international media development non-governmental organization whose goal is "to make everyone in the world fully aware of their rights".[10] The organization believes that "creating awareness is the first and most necessary step to ending rights abuses. By mobilizing the media to spread human rights awareness, jhr informs people about their rights, empowering marginalized communities to stand up, speak out and protect themselves"[10].

As Canada's largest media development organization, jhr has offices in Toronto, Canada (Head Office); Freetown, Sierra Leone; Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo; and Monrovia, Liberia. It also has representatives and non-profit status in the United States and the United Kingdom and operations in Ghana and Malawi.

jhr focuses its programming and efforts on strengthening the local media in countries with some level of freedom in the press, training local journalists on improving their human rights reporting skills. The organization is a pioneer in Rights Media, a new category of media development that has been defined as the “process of writing, collecting, editing, producing and distributing media that creates societal dialogue on human rights issues”.[11] The only NGO in the world focused exclusively on human rights reporting, jhr's work in Rights Media aims to bridge the contentious divide between two camps in the sector: traditional 'media development' proponents and 'communication for development' practitioners. The former of the two focuses on developing infrastructure and professional capacity of media professionals and outlets. The latter focuses on getting particular messages into the public domain through the media. Rights Media does both — it focuses on building capacity of local media outlets to effectively get messages to the general public.[12]

Multilateral Organizations Involved in Media Development


Media development is only a part of the focus of the United Nations Development Program. UNDP has developed a list of Millennium Development Goals, none of which directly mention media, yet media factor into each of the goals.


The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization funds some media development programs. Its Communication and Information “theme” is responsible for a number of media-related programs. The International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC) funds a large number of media development projects each year.

World Bank – CommGAP

The Communications for Governance and Accountability Program (CommGAP), a global program at the World Bank, promotes the use of communication in governance reform programs and supports the building of democratic public spheres. Through its three program areas: Research and Advocacy, Training and Capacity Building, and Support to Development Projects and Programs, CommGAP is demonstrating the power of communication in promoting good and accountable governance and hence better development results.[13]


Assists government officials in implementing governance reform programs; Supports project and program managers with innovative approaches and techniques; Provides evidence-based advice for policymakers; Promotes collaborative research with academics; Helps donors design and coordinate comprehensive communication interventions; Convenes global dialogues bringing together practitioners, researchers and government decisionmakers and policymakers to advance the policy debate; Leverages funds for comprehensive communication programs for developing-country; Captures, distills and disseminates best practices globally.[14]

Other International Groups


Begun in 2005 with a conference in Amman, Jordan, the Global Forum for Media Development is a global organization of media development implementers from around the world. The organization constitutes a network of “some 500 non-governmental media assistance organizations operating in about 100 countries across Asia, Africa, the Middle East, Europe, Eurasia and the Americas, which support the development of independent media at the community, national and regional level.” The members of GFMD occasionally meet in regional conferences and every three years, the whole network comes together in a major conference. The GFMD is also now a membership organization, requiring members to pay a yearly membership fee.[15]


The Media Development Loan Fund invests in independent news outlets in developing countries. The fund provides “low-cost capital, solutions and know-how to help journalists in challenging environments build sustainable businesses around professional, responsible, quality journalism.” Overall MDLF has proven to be a very effective model at promoting sustainable media development.

MDLF is actually a family of funds, each maintained separately to minimize overall risk to the other funds. The funds are: General Loan Fund, High-Risk Country Fund, High-Risk Project Fund, Affiliates Fund, Equity Fund, Cash-Flow Fund, New Media Fund, and Green Media Fund.

Salzburg Global Seminar

The Salzburg Global Seminar (formerly the Salzburg Seminar) organizes discussions among high-level people on particular topics. The Seminar’s Strengthening Independent Media Initiative is a series of meetings taking place during 2008 to 2010 which aim to: “bring greater strategic focus and coordination to the field of independent media development around the world; to improve the flow of financial support from private as well as public sources and promising new technologies into the media development sector; and to improve coordination between funders, trainers, and media development implementers.”

Other International Organizations

International News Safety Institute—INSI is a nonprofit dedicated to improving the safety of journalists worldwide. Based in Brussels, it is somewhat like a European version of CPJ, though it also has an office in New York. INSI also provides resources[16] to improve journalist safety and does training in the field.

International Federation of Journalists—IFJ is a network of journalist organizations[17] from around the world, based in Belgium.

The Communication Initiative—The CI is a large network of people and organizations interested in communications for development and (less so) media development. The site is also a data dump for a number of articles and other resources on topics in communications for development.

Panos—The Panos Network is a communication for development organization with autonomous “institutes” around the world. "Panos works with [journalists,] media and other information actors to enable developing countries to shape and communicate their own development agendas through informed public debate."

Article 19—Article XIX is “a human rights organization with a specific mandate and focus on the defense and promotion of freedom of expression and freedom of information worldwide.” In addition to advocacy, it produces reports on topics relevant to press freedom.

IFEX—The International Freedom of Expression eXchange is primarily an advocacy organization. IFEX is one of the best sources of news about media, journalists, and freedom of expression in countries around the world through its twice-weekly IFEX Digest.


  1. ^ Internews, "About Internews,"
  2. ^ International Center for Journalists, "About Us,"
  3. ^ ICFJ, "Our Program: Promoting the Free Flow of News in the Public Interest,"
  4. ^ International Journalists' Network, "About Us,"
  5. ^ IREX, "IREX Mission,"
  6. ^ IREX, "MSI Overview,"
  7. ^ Center for International Media Assistance, Empowering Independent Media: U.S. Efforts to Promote Free and Independent News Around the World (Washington: CIMA, 2007),
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^ a b "Journalists for Human Rights. Organization website
  11. ^ What is Rights Media? Journalists for Human Rights
  12. ^ jhr and Media Development Journalists for Human Rights.
  13. ^ CommGAP, "Brochure,"
  14. ^ World Bank, "Communications for Governance & Accountability,"
  15. ^
  16. ^ INSI, "Safety Resources,"
  17. ^ International Federation of Journalists, "IFJ Members,"

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