Pilot Study and Online Conference "Media Accountability in the MENA-Region"
The Erich Brost Institute for International Journalism (TU Dortmund University, Germany) published in 2021, the results of a pilot study on media accountability in nine MENA countries. The study includes Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Tunisia, and Syria.
The study is available in Arabic and English language and is based on more than 100 qualitative interviews with local experts. The study provides an overview of the emergence of press/media councils, ethic codes, ombudsmen, media criticism on social media, and other media accountability instruments in the MENA region, and critically discusses their potential role in restrictive regimes.
On February 23-25, 2021, the Erich-Brost-Institute for International Journalism conducted in cooperation with the Samir Kassir Foundation (Lebanon), MENA Media Monitoring (Tunisia), Media Development Center Tunisia and Philip Madanat Consultancy (Jordan), a series of high-profile online discussions related to the pilot-study outcomes, reaching about 300 participants from the MENA region.The pilot-study "Media Accountability in the MENA Region" outcomes show that only a few selected aspects of media accountability instruments in MENA have been investigated during recent decades. Freedom of the media and freedom of expression are in many countries restricted by governments or by economic, religious, societal, or other actors, and independent self-regulatory bodies are often missing. However, in the digital age, new forums for media criticism have emerged online.Ayman Mhanna, Executive Director of the Samir Kassir Foundation in Lebanon summarized the findings of the study as following:"The respondents to the survey from each country did not endow the traditional MAIs with much trust. Social media turns out to be a preferred instrument of media accountability in MENA - including countries like Libya that lack most MAIs. Overall, a severe lack of financial sustainability has been identified as a major challenge for media accountability in the MENA region. The lack of safety and protection of journalists has been emphasized as the main threat to media accountability particularly in countries with protracted conflicts like Iraq, Syria or Libya. Media literacy is an essential component towards achieving a minimum degree of media accountability."Representatives from the media, such as journalists, journalists associations as well as media publishers, media NGOs and journalism educators held joint discussions, in which they emphasized the existing challenges in the MENA region related to media accountability, such as shortcomings in the media content, missing public engagement in correcting media content, lack of media accountability trainings at universities, and the necessity to promote media literacy among marginalized groups and decriminalize defamation.In the online conferences, participants stressed that universities could play a more independent role, and could become a more active partner in carrying out media monitoring as a mechanism for accountability. They expressed the necessity to create an independent network of researchers from the MENA region and highlight the need to promote media literacy among the media audiences.