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EED Media Partners from the MENA region discuss challenges faced and make five recommendations for the future

This April, EED brought 21 media partners from across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) to Brussels for important discussions on the challenges faced by media organisations in the region. During closed-meetings and panel discussions, they discussed the role they play, reviewed current challenges, and made important recommendations to guide future support of independent media.  

Vital role played by independent media in MENA region

Independent media offer an important counterbalance locally and regionally, as civic space and freedom of information shrinks across the MENA region. This work is essential in an environment where mainstream media tend to prioritise official narratives or business interests, and where misinformation and misleading narratives are rife. 
Independent media platforms provide information free of institutional bias, hold authorities and other actors to account, expose corruption, uphold pluralism and diversity of opinions and inform the public on important topics. At a local level, community-based media address local concerns, often dismissed or overlooked by larger national outlets and government authorities. In this way, they play a vital role in fostering more inclusive and participatory dialogue.

Challenges escalated since war in Gaza began

Media actors in the region have long faced significant political, legal and financial challenges, however the war in Gaza has exacerbated these pressures. Today, many journalists are victims of targeted attacks. In Gaza, the death toll of media workers now accounts for 72 percent of global media worker fatalities, making it the deadliest war for journalists since documentation began in 1990.

The war has impacted the operations of media outlets throughout the region, forcing them to adapt and expand their editorial line to the crisis. Journalists covering the war from the frontlines face increased risks and responsibilities as they do their job conveying the reality of this war to the outside world.

Disinformation and repression

A deluge of disinformation has meant that media outlets are forced to dedicate considerable time and resources to fact-checking and debunking unverified news. The war in Gaza has meant considerable increase in online censoring of Palestinian content. EED’s partners report that several of their websites have been hacked or their social media accounts shadow banned, which impacts their ability to report on the war and amplify voices from the ground.

Media platforms continue to face challenges that existed prior to the war, such as political persecution which remains a pressing issue, with journalists frequently facing attacks and intimidation tactics that force them to self-censor their reporting. There is a growing trend of repressive legal frameworks that restrict journalistic freedom and expression.

Financial sustainability

Financial sustainability continues to be a major concern, as independent media outlets compete for limited resources. A main challenge lies in the prevalence of state-sponsored or business-affiliated funding for mainstream media, which has resulted in the proliferation of polarising and misleading narratives. This undermines the integrity of journalism and exacerbates challenges for independent outlets striving to provide accurate and impartial reporting.

Five Key recommendations

  1. Scale up support: Given independent media outlets’ important role in supporting democracy, the focus should be on a longer-term and core funding, with realistic expectations about the self-sustainability of independent media outlets. Prioritisation of and investment in organisational sustainability, both in terms of their structural setup and editorial lines, requires time, human resources and allocated funding.
  2. Demand-driven not donor-driven: Donors need to be  receptive to the diverse needs of the media actors and the different contexts in which they operate. Media actors should be viewed as equal partners in the process of strengthening independent journalism and press freedom. Hyperlocal content, which can foster trust in media among local communities and counter disinformation, should be a particular focus.
  3. Broaden evaluation criteria: Donors should broaden evaluation criteria to prioritise qualitative indicators rather than just quantitative metrics. Indicators such as internal journalist skill development, editorial quality, depth of investigative reporting, rigour of fact-checking procedures and diversity of perspectives represented offer a more detailed picture of a media organisation's impact and better demonstrate journalism’s significant role in educating the public, holding the authorities accountable, and fostering democratic discourse.
  4. Ensure international solidarity and use their diplomatic influence to support journalists: This has proven to be an important form of protection to journalists, especially in repressive environments and during conflicts, when appropriate. It must also be recognised that in some highly repressive environments, partners might not wish to communicate their funding sources to the broader public given security risks.
  5. Support is more a political that a technical activity: Support should be extended to media outlets that represent diverse voices, provided they uphold democratic values, thereby fostering pluralism and ensuring a  a wide range of voices and opinions are heard in the media landscape. 

By fostering a more collaborative and inclusive approach to supporting independent media, donors and media support organisations can contribute to the long-term viability and resilience of media ecosystems in the MENA region.



MENA event 2024 1
MENA media event 2024