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Avenues of Influence in Global Media Development | FOPEA » IFEX » CIMA » NED

Added to digital library:

Empowering Independent Media: U.S. Efforts to Foster a Free Press and an Open Internet Around the World — Second Edition: 2012 | Center for International Media Assistance.

Recent draft legislation shows a $118 million allocation to CIMA’s sponsoring National Endowment for Democracy in fiscal 2012.

Each year, NED makes more than 1,000 grants to support the projects of non-governmental groups abroad who are working for democratic goals in more than 90 countries.

Media development, in the report shown above, apparently constitutes the lion’s share of funding by NED, State and USAID.

In one critical sub-sector of media development, media freedom and freedom of information, State Department and USAID funding totaled $96 million in FY 2009, $127 million in FY 2010, and nearly $107 million in FY 2011.

How this money gets spent has always fascinated me as an example of state of the art digital strategy.

I would like to find out whether technical analysis of CNOs — Collaborative Networked Organizations — can shine any light on the democracy promotion industry and concurrent efforts in the area of media development.

This capability would be especially useful in cases such as this, where the structure of collaborative relationships are so complex, according to our CIMA reporter, as to be inscrutable.

It is impossible to name all of the organizations that have received funding to implement these projects; not even their fellow implementers know who they all are. An early beneficiary of the State Department grants in the field was Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society, which began a series of influential studies on Internet censorship with State Department funding in 2007. Berkman’s Rob Faris’s characterization of the work echoed Hillary Clinton: “You are engaging in cyberwarfare, on the side of the good guys.”

Always good to know where that taxpayer dollar is going, and for what. Our reporter thinks so, too, in her recommendations:

The U.S. government should take steps to:

  1. … Increase transparency in the funding of digital initiatives, with the exception of information that would endanger the security of vulnerable populations.

So we are not to wait around for dithering bureaucrats to parse the meaning of «endanger», what can the egocentric small world of a specific Web object tell us about its collaborative and synergistic relationships with others?

In other words, how can we tell that structural affinities pointed out by crawling Web sites for directed and mutual hyperlinks represent actual, potential or intended avenues of influence?

Take FOPEA, Spanish acronym for the Forum for Argentine Journalism, a site that regularly appears in my analyses of industry groups comprising the membership of the World Association of Newspapers and a virtual cavalcade of related Web-based movements, mobilizations, lobbying campaigns and the brokering of relationships in virtual professional communities and ideological exchanges.

In this egocentric, distance=2 network of the Argentine press association, IFEX appears to occupy a brokerage role of some kind … gatekeeper or liaison … in relation to a broad spectrum of democracy promotion entities and community-building platforms, including

  1. NED
  2. WMD — World Movement for Democracy
  3. OAS
  4. Index on Censorship
  5. Radio Hurra | Sawa — USAID-developed Arabic-language
  6. JFO Iraq | Journalistic Freedom Observatory
  7. OHCHR
  8. UHRP
  9. Harvard Human Rights Journal
  10. The Communication Initiative
  11. Clarin — Argentine metro(sexual) daily
  12. ISSUU
  13. The Moldova Project

One immediately perceives a certain familiar revolving-door effect at work. CIMA‘s Anne Nelson, author of the updated report …

… helped to found the International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX) … and [continues to serve] as the principal researcher and editor for the World Association of Newspapers’ ongoing studies on global media markets. [She] is [also] a member of the Council on Foreign Relations

This is the consummate synergistic resume of the successful networked collaborator, crossing the boundaries of the public-private and profit-nonprofit. .The chapter in the Pajek textbook on Victorian-era Scottish interlocking directorates directly applies.

But to return to FOPEA and other national and regional press associations.

Assuming that the organization’s site forms part of a citation network pointing to related resources and content suggests that it engages to some degree in a collaborative relationship with IFEX, the International Freedom of Expression Exchange.

Can we find specific details on these collaborations? Let us perform some preliminary googles

site:ifex.org "National Endowment for Democracy"
site:fopea.org "National Endowment for Democracy"
site:fopea.org "IFEX"
site:ned.org +fopea

And so on. Yes, there are instances of modest financing for FOPEA by NED.

Foro de Periodismo Argentino (Forum for Argentine Journalism) (FOPEA)
$27,810
To encourage Argentine journalists to practice independent journalism by protecting their right to free expression. FOPEA will create a freedom of expression monitoring network that will give journalists a place to report their problems; seek qualified professional or legal advice; and reach out to the local, regional, and international community for support. FOPEA will disseminate reports of violations of freedom of expression and compile an annual report to identify trends.

And

Foro de Periodismo Argentino (FOPEA)
$40,500
To promote independent journalism among Argentine journalists. FOPEA will raise awareness about freedom of expression violations in Argentina through its moanitoring and alert network. Additionally, FOPEA will continue to advocate for legislation promoting access to public information and regulation of the use of government publicity funds in conjunction with other civil society organizations.

The annual amount of this handful of grants are not very significant, but NED also seems to serve as a fixed channel for content produced by the media monitoring project. I count nine FOPEA press releases reproduced by CIMA.NED.ORG and 10 by IFEX, all in the last year.

The media monitoring project was carried out in partnership with CELS — Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales, a peer, or cousin, to Brazil’s Instituto Milennium — and aimed to influence public policy and legislation of interest to the media industry in Argentina.

In 2007, a related national press society, Venezuela’s Instituto Prensa y Sociedad, IPYS, was awarded a NED Democracy Award for coverage of the RCTV affair, in which an anti-Chavez television network lost its license renewal bid. IPYS lists four grants from NED in the years leading up to the award.

And so, even if these contributions are modest, they represent something typical of these types of networks — they comprise, as the pundits like to say, «small pieces, loosely joined».

As expected from the theory of brokerage roles, then, IFEX is designed to serve as a clearing house and intermediary for project templates, tools, and ideologies on a global scale, applying a mash-up model of content production to the task of «achieving thought leadership». What the digital strategy partially conceals, hower, is the fact that the cumulative effect of these content flows is directed, not genuinely bidirectional. Things churn and churn as they circle the drain, but the end-game is as predictable as the laws of physic.

In sum, FOPEA, like its peer organizations, is in a position, formally, to receive influence from NED and IFEX. Does it in fact? To a degree, yes, measurable by funding but also in terms of content recycling via echo chamber.

Food for further thought: What are the relations among freedom of expression advocates, media industry lobbies, and institutions for the promotion of classical liberalism and libertarianism — the «neoliberal» bloc in the discourse of the Latin American left?

If on the one hand IFEX funnels thinking and doing from the democracy-promotion industry, on the other it shares ideological underpinnings with a latifundio of neoliberal think thanks, all occupying distinct domains on behalf of hidden hands and united voices.

I have noticed an especially close relationship between Brazil’s ANJ — National Newspaper Association — and INMA, the International Newsmedia Marketing Association, for example.

An analysis of maximum flows between the two Web sites shows … what?

My technical naivete is showing, sorry. I am going to take a Coursera course later this year on SNA.

At any rate, we see that INMA and ANJ belong to a network encompassing press associations and advogacy groups from the Ukraine to Cape Horn, as well as  global organizations like WAN.

Scarborough is a market research firm specializing in local markets. Grupo Joly is a group of Andalusian newspapers, to wit:

  1. Diario de Cádiz
  2. Diario de Jerez
  3. Europa Sur
  4. Diario de Sevilla
  5. El Día de Córdoba
  6. Huelva Información
  7. Granada Hoy
  8. Málaga Hoy
  9. Diario de Almería

Sipiapa is the Interamerican Press Association, which publishes news from Reporters Without Borders and IFEX on press freedoms in Cuba and elsewhere in the region. It hosts the Chapultepec Manifesto and Impunity projects.