An inception meeting began on Friday for a national steering committee to partner with UNESCO to assess and strengthen Cambodia’s media landscape.
The National Steering Committee is a collective membership of representatives from the governmental, civil society, media, academic and international sectors. It aims to provide guidance and feedback throughout the assessment process.
According to UNESCO, it is working in partnership with Asia Centre, a think-tank based in Thailand, and the Department of Media and Communication of the Royal University of Phnom Penh, to conduct the national assessment of media development in Cambodia, based on UNESCO’s Media Development Indicators (MDIs).
UNESCO said the MDIs have been recognized by many stakeholders globally as an important tool for guiding media development efforts.
It added that they were developed to provide a framework within which media can contribute to good governance and democratic development, taking into account all aspects of the media environment; a system of regulation; media plurality and diversity; media as a platform for democratic discourse; professional capacity building and supporting institutions; and infrastructural capacities.
“The MDIs are not intended as a tool to rank a country’s level of media development against that of others. Rather, they provide an assessment of the various gaps and weaknesses in the media development framework, against which progress can then be mapped,” UNESCO said in a concept note.
“The MDIs are designed to be applied in any country, and interest in applying them in countries around the world is progressively growing,” the note added.
James Gomez, Regional Director of Asia Centre, said in an interview on Friday that in terms of ASEAN, Cambodia is the second country to have embarked on the MDIs, after Myanmar. Although Timor Leste led the way, it was not part of the bloc at the time.
Gomez said it was “good energy” with a mixture of presence during the inception, including from different government ministries and officials with friendly and cooperative interactions.
He said he will now embark on “desk research” in which stakeholders will share information about media in the country. He expects this project to take about nine months.
Gomez said the research will reveal gaps, where the strengths and weaknesses are in the media, and solutions that can strengthen the sector.
“It’s not a ranking exercise. No one is ranking any countries under MDI, it’s almost like a self-evaluation,” Gomez told Kiripost.
“It’s like when you are at your job and you look at your supervisor, and after you work six months, okay, they ask you what do you think, how do you think you did well in the job, what are your strengths and what are the areas that you think you can improve?”
Gomez said that he will try to talk to as many media outlets as possible and may take up a representative approach and a focus group discussion as the methodology.