Monthly Archives: May 2013

Media Buffer Zone Project – Raising Capacities of Civil Society for the Production of Multimedia in Cyprus, the Middle East and South East Europe

photo (3)As a follow up to winning the audience award for best project idea at the Power of One Conference held in Nicosia, Cyprus in October 2012, the Media Buffer Zone Project team was invited to present and workshop their innovative project at the “POINT2013 – Political Accountability and New Technologies Conference” held in Sarajevo 23-26 May 2013.

Now you may be asking yourself what does this prestigious “unconference” featuring many fascinating speakers such as UZROK from Serbia, Milica Begović of UNDP-Montenegro, “The Facebook Girl of Egypt”, Esraa Abdel Fattah and the famed Amira Yahyaoui of Al Bawsala from Tunisia have to do with a group of committed activists from the MENA region, Cyprus and Central Europe who want to provide media skills trainings to NGOs and develop an Internet platform linking media talent to civil society have to do with this group of incredible entrepreneurs? Well, more than you’d think!

It seems our unique idea formulated during long days and coffee-fueled brainstorming sessions, but whose birth was really a product of the group’s years of passion and experience working for their respective communities, is something that many innovative people relate to and are inspired by. So, it was a natural fit in this turbo-charged and “change the world for the better” atmosphere.

The crowd response to our informative workshop session included people from Egypt, Libya and across Europe and was overwhelming positive. We all wish we could have started the trainings on the spot! However, we agreed to settle for stimulating idea creation, exchanging the needs of various communities in a more in-depth fashion and creating a space for a better understanding amongst the regions.

In-between the conference sessions members of the Media Buffer Zone Project team gathered in hotel lobbies, coffee shops and Labor Union halls (yes really, we met at the headquarters of the “Confederation of Independent Trade Unions of Bosnia and Herzegovina”, thanks labour leaders!) to discuss how best to implement the project to satisfy the needs of all.

The first order of business we thought of was to gauge the pulse of the people by conducting an in-depth needs analysis of what NGOs from our regions really need. So naturally we turned to our trusted partners from Palestine, Near East Consulting, who have years of experience in just this type of data mining. Next we thought to design the trainings from the actual research and turn that info into training materials civil society can use in their efforts to build their capacity in media skills.

Then we planned to use these tools to train “trainers” in media skills to multiply across the regions with media skills trainings in both Cyprus and Egypt to better equip our target audiences from the vast experience of both media partners CCMC and Qabila. From there we decided to develop a web-based platform which will link interested media professionals to active NGOS in the region to better serve the needs of the people these organizations serve. Whew! From an idea to being productive is an exciting and challenging proposition.

In order to make this all work we realized we need the vast networks of our partners Universal Patient’s Rights Organisation (Cyprus) and Zašto ne? (Bosnia and Herzegovina) to activate their networks to communicate, inform, and motivate the participants. Only in times of true inspiration due the stars align and such partnerships are formed!

So, here we go on our journey from a loose confederation of NGOS scattered throughout the Middle-East, Mediterranean and Central Europe to a tight-knit group of dedicated civil society leaders working for an innovative inter-regional knowledge exchange to strengthen the role of citizens and civil society in stimulating positive social change. Follow our adventures on twitter at @MediaBufferZone.

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‘MY World’ Survey half a million citizens tell the United Nations their priorities

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Over 560,000 citizens from 194 countries have already voted for the issues that would make the most difference to their lives, providing, for the first time ever, real-time and real-world intelligence on what people think about the biggest challenges facing them and their families.

MY World, the United Nations global survey for a better world is a groundbreaking initiative inviting citizens to virtually take their seat at the UN and participate in the global conversation on the next development agenda by voting in an option-based survey.

Initial results from this survey have been released this week as the UN Secretary-General’s High Level Panel for the post-2015 dialogue meets in New York to submit their recommendations on the future international development agenda. To date, 57% of the votes have been collected offline, 35% though the website and around the 8% have come through mobile phone.

“We are using mobile phone and web technology as well as conducting surveys face to face to directly connect with people. This is allowing us for the first time to see in real time who is voting, from where, and what their priorities are”- highlighted Corinne Woods, Global Director of the UN Millennium Campaign – “MY World is a powerful tool for national as well as global decision making. These half a million votes are just a start – we have until 2015 and beyond to continue gathering people´s views and maintain this conversation flow between policy makers and citizens around the world.”

‘Crowdsourcing’ the future development agenda.

MY World demonstrates the UN’s commitment to an open and inclusive dialogue on the post-2015 agenda and harnessing the full power of technology and social media. MY World is supported by over 400 civil society organizations, youth groups, faith organizations, corporations and global personalities.

“We are getting a rich mix of data that is generating important information not only on global priorities, but also how these differ by characteristics: gender, age, location and education level. So far there seems to be a strong overlap of priorities among regions. Education, health, water, food, “an honest and responsive government” and “protection against crime and violence” feature amongst the top ten for every region of the world”– said Claire Melamed, from the Overseas Development Institute.

What are global citizens saying?

Participants in MY World are asked to select which six out of sixteen issues are most important for them and their families. Results to date reveal that voters’ top three priorities are “a good education”, “better healthcare” and “an honest and responsive government”. “Access to water and sanitation” and “nutritious and affordable food” are also perceived by people as being of key importance to improving their lives.

Citizens voting predominantly for health and education reveal the continuing relevance of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) which recently observed the 1000 day milestone to their 2015 target date. MY World represents an entry point for people to build on MDG achievements and help define an ambitious development agenda after 2015 that has poverty eradication and sustainable development at its core.

However, results also indicate that people are pointing to new issues to be addressed, such as “an honest and responsive government”, “better job opportunities” and “protection against crime and violence”, which also rank within the top seven priorities.

MY World has generated extremely positive  and  powerful responses across the world, as demonstrated  by Oyebola Folajimi Kehinde, one of the thousands who participated in the offline representative survey in Nigeria: “The final statements most of the grassroots people kept hammering on was that “let’s all hope they do something tangible with the newly collated data.”

Until 2015, the UN and partners continue to invite men and women everywhere to vote in MY World and contribute to shaping a better world together.

You can view the results to date as well as the raw open data. For more information, please contact Amalia Navarro,  amalia.navarro@undp.org +34 91 788 53 77, Anna Ortubia, anna.ortubia@undp.org  +34 609108176 or Stanislav Saling  stanislav.saling@undp.org  +1 646 781 4077.

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The Role of Mass Media in the Settlement of the Cyprus Problem

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By Orestis Tringides

This is a short version of an article included in the publication “Managing Intractable Conflicts: Lessons from Moldova and Cyprus” available here.

If it is agreed that in order for the mass media to be able to play a positive role in the peace-building process and cooperation in a conflict region they first have to ensure impartiality in both the way they present the news and in the way they operate, then the media in Cyprus cannot fulfill that role. Some of the problems regarding the media in Cyprus playing an effective role in peace- and trust-building between the two communities (Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots), are; the tendency of advocacy journalism (the kind of journalism that deliberately and transparently employs a non-objective perspective for political or social intentions) and the reliance on external (official).

As a percentage of the population, the readership of newspapers is relatively low – the broadcast media is a preferred source of news and opinion. News programs frequently feature developments regarding the Cyprus problem, although due to a limited number of sources, and heavily politically influence, they often resort to advocacy journalism with a dramatized and sensationalized delivery of news about a political development. In many cases there is lack of investigative journalism, with the news falling short of informing the audience as they lack crucial, or background information required to understand and present the issue thoroughly. Very frequently party-centric (male-dominated) and heated debates take place, thus diminishing (and sometimes, deliberately undermining) the role of those who can provide technocratic expertise, or a non-partisan view.

Civil society events that work to bring the two communities together have been largely excluded in the “traditional” media outlets – although in recent years civil society organizations (CSOs) have started employing and increasing their skills capacity in the new media (social media) that indirectly tend to attract more attention by the mainstream media. Exemplar cases of cooperation in the media across the divide (Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot) have largely taken place “outside” of the established administrative structures; mainly by individuals’ initiatives.

Problems and obstacles in the media having an effective role in peace- and trust-building between the two communities are:

  • Financial Dependencies and Political Influence. Media’s susceptibility to either commercial or political influence and pressure is in large part the result of the difficulties encountered in establishing an independent economic base upon which any non-state media enterprise depends on.
  • Practical and Legal Obstacles; Press Freedom and Access to Information. Journalists on both sides of the island are not (entirely) free to deviate from the agreed political modus operandi between their editors/outlet management and political party/ies, or other poles of political influence. Also, journalists on both sides are being hindered to perform their duties due to a lack of an effective access to information legal framework.
  • Cooperation Obstacles Due to Non-Recognition. The fear of “implied” recognition has developed obstacles on basic issues, such as how to address and acknowledge the other side; journalists have employed a terminology when referring to the other side (e.g. “pseudo-state”; the “Greek Cypriot Administration” etc.) that is plainly offensive for the other side.
  • The Barriers of Language and Information. Media outlets communicate in two different languages, Greek and Turkish; therefore, it is difficult for journalists from the opposite side of the dividing line to follow the news on the other side and to have a clear picture of the prevailing opinions on the other side of the dividing line.
  • Mass Media being part of the problem by emphasizing the hardships and obstacles to a settlement, and almost no mention of any prospects for a solution.
  • Neutral or negative Portrayal of Bi-communal, Collaborative and Reconciliatory Civil Society Efforts by the Mass Media.
  • The Portrayal of the “Other” Community by the Mass Media reinforcing a common public perception that one community does not want a peaceful solution with the other by giving disproportional coverage to the few extremist voices of the other side, rather than of those who wish for a solution.
  • During the Annan Plan era, most of the Greek Cypriot media favored its rejection, attacking those in favor, emphasizing the negatives and dismissing, or not mentioning, the positives.

There are various examples of cooperation/communication and flow of Information from and to Each Side. In 2003, when, for the first time since the war of 1974, the moving restrictions from one side to the other were eased, journalists from both sides had the opportunity to meet and cooperate with each other. Currently, this cooperation is mostly conducted in an un-strategic manner via the formal structures of the media outlets; most of the times it is e.g. based on a journalist’s personal connections with another journalist on the other side. Nevertheless, since 2003, some media organizations have established forms of direct cooperation between journalists and media organizations on the other side thus helping each other not only to get access to primary information on the news, but also helping their colleagues to understand the background of a story; this included featuring articles of journalists from the other community.

Because most attempts at collaboration remain hidden below the surface and informal, collaboration at the institutional level remains low. Also, the Internet remains an underutilized forum for media and information exchange. The civil society sector, engaged in cross-community issues, has used social media to promote dialogue and debate on issues of common concern.

For these abovementioned reasons, as an alternative to the established traditional media, joint initiatives in the Community Media (an umbrella term that also includes Social Media) have recently been taken by CSOs and individuals from both sides. As a result, the established Cyprus Community Media Centre (CCMC) acts as a “transcommunal” CSO (by this term emphasizing that its scope goes beyond the “exclusivity” of Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities) that aims to increase civil society’s capacity in providing CSOs with the skills and tools to both communicate their message in the wider public and also to find ways to communicate with the traditional media. CCMC was established as a result of the identified “media gap” that the CSOs were facing and to counteract the disregard that the CSOs have been treated with by the traditional media and, as a result, the broader society. Community Media has been identified as an (alternative) means for building cooperation in the media sector – a sector that is very important for the peace process.

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CCMC Editorial: Why World Press Freedom Day is important for Cyprus

3 May is marked around the world as a day of celebration of press freedom.

Since the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed this date as World Press Freedom Day in 1993, it has become a day to reflect on and evaluate the state of press freedom in our own countries and around the world, as well as to remind ourselves of the need to defend journalists and media professionals from attacks on their work and independence.

In Cyprus the rights of journalists to exercise their profession freely are still not fully guaranteed. Back in February 2011, the Turkish-language Afrika newspaper – which maintains a highly critical stance of affairs in the northern part of Cyprus – and its editor-in-chief Sener Levent were threatened by an armed gunman at the newspaper’s premises. In July that year Levent’s colleague Ali Osman was also attacked at gunpoint. In fact 2011 was a particularly difficult year for Turkish Cypriot journalists. Mutlu Esendemir, the news editor of the Kanal T and a reporter for Kibris newspaper, was injured following the explosion of a bomb placed under his car, while Cenk Mutluyakali, the editor-in-chief of Yeniduzen newspaper, was also threatened.  These are the last recorded incidents of direct threats against the lives of Cypriot journalists, but they remain a chilling reminder that in our divided country threats to the freedom of the press continue to exist.

At the time of the attack on Levent his Greek Cypriot colleagues from the Union of Cyprus Journalists (UCJ) crossed the Green Line to show their support and solidarity. The UCJ has mobilised support for Levent on several occasions before the opening of the crossing-points when he was imprisoned for his and his newspaper’s writings. As welcome as this move was, it remains one of the few public gestures of good will between journalists across the divide in Cyprus. Unfortunately professional solidarity and collaboration between journalists remains politicised along the faultlines of the Cyprus Problem.

Event organised by CCMC in April 2011

Event co-organised by CCMC with the Turkish Cypriot Jounalists’ Association (April 2011)

It is clear that more needs to be done to strengthen the links between the media across the Cyprus divide. Over the last few years the UCJ has maintained sporadic contact with the Association of Turkish Cypriot Journalists, while dialogue with Basin Sen – their trade union counterpart – is limited to interaction within the frameworks established by the European Federation of Journalists, and remains tainted from past confrontations within the EFJ General Assembly.

UNESCO sees 3 May as an occasion around which initiatives can be encouraged and developed in support of press freedom. At CCMC we also believe that World Press Freedom Day offers an ideal starting point for journalists across the divide to start to build an understanding and common framework of action around shared principles and values. It is also an opportunity to sensitise all Cypriots about the need for the rights of journalists to be guaranteed, and to inform them that in Cyprus those rights will not be fully safeguarded until a just and lasting settlement is agreed, and a demilitarisation of the island takes place.

With the aim of kickstarting the dialogue to establish a framework for media collaboration in Cyprus, CCMC calls on all journalists’ organisations in Cyprus to attend the first meeting of the MEDIANE – Media in Europe for Diversity Inclusiveness programme, which will take place in Nicosia from 10-12 June, and to utilise this opportunity to build an action plan for the future.

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