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Reflections on Media Environment Trends – IMS Annual Report 2016 - 2017

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Assault on journalism and freedom of expression

Pushing norms and standards in politics, conflict and media to new extremes, leaders in every region of the world in 2016 consolidated and expanded their powers at the expense of freedom and democracy.
From armed conflict and forced migration to the spread of misinformation and the rise of right-wing populism, the chaotic and disheartening developments of the year in many ways marked the new frontiers of global repression and inequality.

From footage of Syria’s horror to every minute detail of the US presidential election relayed on social media, the year displayed vividly the increased global connectedness of people and communities as technology continued to influence news and information and the way it is produced, regulated and repressed. In this context, the year also saw journalism facing a crisis of a fundamental nature spurred on by technological advancement, political power play and global inequality — a crisis that challenges basic notions of truth, relevance and trust.

This report is devoted to these topics — to exploring how we can make journalism relevant in an age of post-truth no matter which part of the world we are in, and to examine what trust in media entails and how we can rebuild and maintain it. In that sense, this year’s IMS Annual Report takes a different approach from that of previous years by focusing more generally on the current trends and challenges facing our industry of media development. A brief overview of the achievements of IMS and partners around the world can be viewed on the map on page 8. The report also looks ahead, encouraging us to revise and expand our notion of media development as the internet and everything digital continues to shape and define the environment in which all media operate.

It is in this environment that IMS in 2016 launched its new strategy, which gives us the tools to make sure that we can deliver on our mission to develop strong, independent media in some of the most difficult places on earth — media that give citizens access to better, more reliable and more relevant information and which deliver on the promises of the Sustainable Development Goals that IMS works to contribute towards. Our new strategy positions IMS to achieve better results by supporting our partners around the world in increasingly effective and efficient ways. It is a strategy that helps us enable them to do their crucial work as they risk their lives and freedoms on a daily basis.

At a time where the development of free and professional media has rarely been more important, we are particularly proud to work with journalists, human rights defenders and others who push forward positive change in their media sectors and in their communities. They work tirelessly and courageously against the backdrop of the profoundly challenging developments that came to define 2016 and which are still shaping 2017. IMS, with the generous support of our donors, is proud to enable them to continue their pursuit of the truth. In the midst of adversity, there are many examples of progress. In Pakistan, journalist safety hubs have been established at five Pakistani press clubs representing half of the country’s community of 18,000 journalists, thus improving media’s response to threats. Pakistan is also featured as an example in the efforts led by IMS to document best practice models of locally-led safety mechanisms for journalists in seven countries. The research carried out between mid 2016 and 2017 also includes Colombia, Philippines, Indonesia, Iraq, Afghanistan and Nepal.

In Niger, sustained support to media associations and the national media regulator has led to their institutional growth and co-regulation agreement.

In the Mena region, an online MENA Media Law Reform platform has been launched with partners which gathers news and good practices on media law reform policies and processes in the countries in the region. Finally, support to developing investigative journalism continues to be a cornerstone of IMS’ work to enhance good journalism through cooperation with investigative journalism networks in some of the world’s most difficult environments for journalists such as Russia and the MENA region.
Journalists and human rights defenders in these countries and the many other countries in which IMS works stand strong against routine violations of their rights, physical assault and accusations of treason, of aiding terrorism and of fabricating lies.

The demoralising blows they endure are significant, but their devotion to solid, fact-based reporting is the only way to make sure good journalism will persevere.