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Public Service Broadcasting: a Tool for Reconciliation and Democratization in Countries in Transition

31-05-2005 (Paris)
Public Service Broadcasting has a particular role to play for national reconciliation and in the transition process towards democracy. This was one of the main conclusions of a Panel debate on Public Service Broadcasting (PSB) in Countries in Transition organized in May 24 in Paris by UNESCO’s Communication and Information Sector on the occasion of the inauguration of the Italian-funded and UNESCO-provided TV newsrooms at the Radio Television of Afghanistan.
In the opening session, Koïchiro Matsuura, Director-General of UNESCO, said «Assistance to public service broadcasters can be seen as a component of the promotion of freedom of expression, while assistance to media development and reconstruction serves as an integral part of an holistic conflict prevention intervention based on democratization, good-governance and dialogue. Both are vital, whether prior to a potential conflict or in a post-conflict environment.»

Musa Marufi, President of the Afghanistan’s newly created radio and television regulating authority, argued that, even if a PSB has of course to come to terms with laws, religion and the society in which it is operating, it is the duty of a PSB to empower individuals to act freely in their society by securing access to fair and accurate information. He also reminded how difficult is reforming a State broadcaster’s beurocracy.

Joe Thloloe, Chair of Southern African National Editors Forum and former TV editor in chief of the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC), gave an overview about the transition of the SABC from a propaganda tool of apartheid into a PSB. Mr. Thloloe also made an appeal for cooperation among PSBs in all countries: «no two countries are the same and not two broadcasters are the same, but we can share information». He stressed the importance for each countries and each broadcaster to find an appropriate local system for ensuring editorial independence from the government and to be at the service of the entire public.

Giacomo Mazzone, Assistant Secretary General of the European Broadcasting Union reminded the meeting that in countries like Bosnia Herzegovina the institutional attention of a PSB towards multiculturalism, multilinguism and tolerance for minority can assist the reconciliation process.

Nadia Kerwat, RAI manager charged of Coordination activities, informed the meeting about the Italian State broadcaster’s efforts in assisting colleagues from the Iraqi Ratio Television with a training project for the Iraqi journalists which took place in Rome.

Drafting the conclusions, the Panel’s Chairman Mogens Schmidt, UNESCO’s Deputy Assistant Director General for Communication and Information Sector, said that the successful establishment of an truly independent PSB requires a mix of legal preconditions, economical and editorial independence, capacity building of professionals, and accountability towards the public.
Related themes/countries

      · Afghanistan
      · Public Service Broadcasting: News Archives 2005
      · Media in Conflict and Post-Conflict Situations: News Archives 2005
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