The Media Freedom Coalition requires a 're-injection of energy' according to a new evaluation co-authored by City’s Head of Journalism, Dr Melanie Bunce

By Chris Lines (Senior Communications Officer), Published

The Foreign Policy Centre is supporting the publication of a new report evaluating the first two years of the Media Freedom Coalition (MFC), launched last week at the Global Conference for Media Freedom in Tallinn, Estonia.

The MFC is a partnership, established in 2019 by the UK and Canada, of 50 countries working together to advocate for media freedom and the safety of journalists.

Conducted by a team of six academics and researchers – including Dr Melanie Bunce from City, University of London’s Department of Journalism, and others from the University of East Anglia, and University of the Philippines-Diliman – the report poses one central question: is the Media Freedom Coalition working?

“Our assessment is that the MFC is only partially achieving its objectives,” states Dr Mary Myers, the lead author of the report.

“It has taken some positive steps towards its ambitious goals including attracting a relatively large membership and establishing collegiate ways of working. However, partly because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the actions of the MFC have not been as rapid, bold or visible as was initially promised.”

The report concludes that MFC requires a ‘re-set’ and ‘re-injection of energy and funds’ in the next two to three years if it is to achieve its original aims, and provides a scorecard and recommendations to support future development.

“The objective of our report was to identify key areas for improvement to strengthen the MFC’s work moving forward, as such, we hope members of the MFC will take on board our findings and adopt our recommendations,” added Dr Myers.

Evaluating the MFC

The evaluation report’s findings are based on over 100 interviews with relevant stakeholders; analyses of news coverage, social media commentary and public statements; and a survey of media freedom campaigners – as well as detailed case studies in Sudan and the Philippines. The research team assessed the MFC against its own pledges to:

  • Promote accountability by ‘raising the cost’ to those who abuse or violate media freedom;
  • Hold its own members to account over media freedom violations;
  • Work together as a coalition, expand the membership and collaborate with partners (including the Consultative Network, UNESCO and the High-Level Panel of Legal Experts on Media Freedom;
  • ‘Shine a spotlight’ on the issue of media freedom by raising awareness of it; and
  • Develop and defend the media by providing practical support to independent media around the world.

The report finds that the Coalition had some early successes. Several states – such as the Maldives and Sierra Leone – have made positive improvements domestically, as a direct result of joining the MFC and there have been several instances of successful private diplomacy by Coalition members working together.

However, according to Dr Martin Scott, another of the report’s co-authors, “its working methods have been slow and lacking transparency, its communications poor, and its financial commitments small”. Click here to read the full report, entitled “Reset Required? Evaluating the Media Freedom Coalition after its first two years”.

This report, launched at the 3rd Global Conference for Media Freedom in Tallinn, was broadcast live to the Conference website.

Chaired by Jodie Ginsberg, Chief Executive Officer at Internews Europe, this facilitated discussion will be framed around themes raised in the evaluation report.

A core panel, including representatives from the evaluation team, the MFC's Consultative Network, and the MFC Coalition, presented throughout the event. They responded to intervening speeches made by selected media freedom and development experts, who in turn introduced the above themes, and highlighted key concerns related to them. More details on speakers can be found here.

The evaluation was funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council UK and the Global Challenges Research Fund. The FPC did not participate in, or contribute to, the evaluation of the MFC, but has supported the report’s publication through its Unsafe for Scrutiny project, which is funded by the Justice for Journalists Foundation.

More information about the Media Freedom Coalition itself can be found here.

Further information about the wider research project this is part of is available here.


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