A New Frontier, An Old Landscape
p.s. my chapter here is a much shorter version of @crossroads: Democratization & Corporatization of Media in Indonesia
The internet and mobile phones have opened up new horizons for communications – providing new opportunities to promote a vibrant public interest media environment and new ways to more fully realise our human rights. The potential for humanity is colossal, as communicative power moves from the few to the masses; we have the opportunity to democratise freedom of expression. Digital communications are still young and constantly developing, and thus still the subject of much debate and uncertainty. However, given the movements to restrict and manipulate the environment, we must act now to understand and shape the evolving landscape to serve the public interest. The policy environment is shifting, it was more open five years ago than it is now, and if we don’t act speedily and effectively, it is likely to be even less open five years from now. We need to engage with the existing dynamics to establish and embed the norms and standards that will keep the digital communications space open and citizen-centred.
Different countries are following different trajectories, and local and national level understanding and action remain essential. However, at the heart of the emerging media and communications environment is the internet: an environment which is trans-boundary. Thus, more than ever, we must seek to collaborate regionally and internationally to align domestic advocacy with global advocacy; to understand the implications of national policies on the international scale and international policies on the national scale; and to engage with the international institutions that shape the dominant legal and regulatory discourse – too often with little appreciation of the implications these policies have on citizens and civil society communities.
Each country chapter has flagged up policy issues and recommendations relevant to that country. Globally we urgently need to:
Invest in high-quality research to build up an evidence-based body of knowledge to support high quality advocacy for an open, free and accessible environment.
Build an effective global policy advocacy community rooted in specific regional and national expertise, that is capable to providing effective civil society voice in the various international forums as well as supporting each other in key fights at the national level. This will require both global and local resources. We need to break down the barriers between different civil society groups, and build networks to ensure strong co-ordinated and collaborative advocacy efforts.
This is a fast-moving and complex set of issues and it poses unique challenges. Levels of understanding and debate are often low so it will be necessary to work with relevant players to build up their capacity and understanding of the environment. This includes decision makers (parliamentarians and the judiciary), those that must defend and promote the public interest (civil society advocates) and the wider public who have a much more active role in the emerging environment.
Invest in the open technologies and networks that design in democratic principles, and are owned, and driven, by citizens.
Build a community of philanthropic donors that is both knowledgeable and willing to support programmes in this field.