Defending the values of media freedom has always been the prime focus of Doha Centre for Media Freedom (DCMF) in order to enable journalists and media workers to continue producing high quality, responsible journalism and raising awareness of the significant role that the media play in society.
Because of its geopolitical location and its access to the Arab world, DCMF has kept a close eye on the recent development of media in post-revolution countries, as well as the region as a whole. During times of political transition and instability the media’s role is intensified, with journalists and media organisations often providing the clearest insight into the social situation facing citizens at any given point. While serving to emphasise the importance of this work, times such as these also bring to light the great responsibility borne by those providing news coverage of historical developments as they occur.
In line with the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity, DCMF has dedicated the past year to ensure that the fight against impunity for crimes against journalists continues.
“Towards Ending Impunity”
DCMF brought together media and legal experts to discuss the issue of impunity and devise recommendations about how to combat the proliferation of this issue at its “Towards Ending Impunity” Forum in November 2014 .
One of the outcomes of the meeting was the Doha Action Plan to Combat Impunity, which includes a number of recommendations, developed in line with the objectives of the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity. Over the past year, the centre has been working with its partners to ensure its implementation.
As part of DCMF’s efforts to implement the UN Plan of Action, the centre participated in the International Press Institute (IPI) World Congress, held in Cape Town, South Africa in April 2014 and sponsored two panel discussions on the issue of journalists’ safety.
On the sidelines of the conference, DCMF signed a memorandum of understanding with IPI, aimed at enhancing collaboration between both institutions, to provide capacity building and to battle impunity and promote journalists’ safety.
During the third inter-agency meeting on the UN Plan of Action in November 2014, DCMF joined 22 other media organisations in signing a statement, reaffirming their joint commitment to implementing the UN Plan of Action and furthering efforts to stamp out impunity.
This statement encouraged “more consistent and less disconnected actions at country level”; recognised “the need for political will and action by UN member states and other authorities to implement the Plan”; recognised that “more needs to be done among international NGOs to ensure more efficient coordination,” while noting that “increased awareness of the UN Action Plan among UN institutions as well as member states and the media themselves is crucial to its successful implementation” and undertaking to “increase our own efforts to enhance awareness of the Plan among journalists.”
Preparing the next generation
DCMF remains an important partner to UNESCO in promoting the importance of Media and Information Literacy (MIL) education. The centre serves as a focal point for issues related to MIL in the region, which has led to the centre being consulted as an example for developing MIL education in the Arab world.
DCMF participated at the inaugural Foro de Alfabetizacion Mediatica e Informacional en Latino America y El Caribe (AMILAC) in Mexico City as an international organisation which has successfully implemented MIL initatives, sharing the centre’s experience of working in the Arab world, and highlighting the global challenges posed within this field.
The meeting provided the centre with the opportunity to further strengthen its partnership with the Autonomous University of Barcelona, a partnership established to promote MIL education and co-produce audiovisual material together towards this end, while also focusing on other capacity building initiatives and issues such as the safety of journalists.
The forum also provided the chance for DCMF to develop new partnerships, and the centre signed a memorandum of understanding with the Television department of the Autonomous University of Mexico (TV UNAM) with similar intentions. The agreement will see both institutions promoting MIL education in their respective regions, while also helping to raise awareness of the issues facing students in both parts of the world.
These agreements fall within the centre’s strategy to develop an international network of organisations committed to educating a young generation of engaged citizens who will work towards confronting extremism, exclusion, violence and terrorism, while promoting the values of stability, democracy and development.
DCMF engaging Qatari media
In Qatar, DCMF developed partnerships with local educational institutions, including schools and universities, as well as launching capacity building initiatives with media houses and other organisations.
The centre continues to organise training sessions for local journalists with the aim of developing quality journalism, strengthening media freedom and other democratic principles.
DCMF organised a series of discussion panels, experts’ meetings and forums addressing topics relevant to all aspects of media freedom. The centre continues to engage local educators, experts and practitioners from the media field, strengthening the media community in Qatar and shedding light on important issues related to their work.
Recently, DCMF hosted an experts’ meeting to discuss Qatar’s cybercrimes law and its impact on the country’s freedom of speech.
The meeting brought together media, education and legal experts to discuss the significance of the cybercrime law and the stricter penalties imposed for electronic fraud, copyright infringement, electronic card crimes, aiding terrorism, spreading false information through websites and the distribution of child pornography.
Since its approval last year, DCMF has been working with ictQatar and other stakeholders to ensure that the new law will be regulated and enforced in a fair manner.
The objectives of this meeting include developing a better understanding of this law within the Qatari community, as well as devising long-term strategies to regulate any misuse and prevent infringement of netizens’ rights.
The centre believes that while it is important to regulate online activity, it is important that cybercrime issues should be kept separate from online freedom of expression.
Monitoring and advocacy
DCMF has issued several press releases, open letters and statements on different occasions in solidarity with journalists and as part of its strive to promote media freedom.
The centre also monitors violations committed against media workers worldwide which are published on its website and its annual report.
DCMF dedicated its annual report for 2014 to the issue of impunity in order to mobilise the international community to tackle the issue of journalists’ safety and impunity based on the fact that media freedom has been recognised as integral to achieving the UN’s Post-2015 Development agenda.
This report identifies combating impunity as the centre’s primary focus and an essential aspect of achieving global development goals. It features case studies from Gaza, Syria, Ethiopia and Mexico, highlighting the important fact that the issue of impunity is global in scope and universally dangerous.