These video interviews and transcripts were compiled by Michael Randall in the making of the Coalitions for Change Learning Brief.
C4C Adnan Rehmat FINAL.mp4
C4C Maha Taki FINAL.mp4
C4C Tabani Moyo FINAL.mp4
"Building a network with people outside our countries gives the nascent coalitions motivation to move on with change even in adverse circumstances."
The following interview is summarised. The full version is available on pages 3-5 of the report, available here.
What lessons does the Kenyan experience of coalition-building and media advocacy have for other African Nations?
It is not possible for the media sector alone to drive reforms, freedom of expression and democracy because most of the private media, regardless of them being interested in media freedom, are made-for-profit. A combination of human rights defenders and media organisations gives more energy to the coalition. In addition, a clear vision and focus, and the monitoring of the activities carried out are also necessary for successful coalition-building.
The challenges of building and maintaining a coalition can represent a steep learning curve for all concerned. What skills do coalition members need to acquire in order to optimise their potential and deliver real impact?
Members of the coalition must come from diverse backgrounds. Having people that are knowledgeable, competent, and committed to change in the team, as well as people who have a legal mindset, those specialised in media development and reform, and those who understand the global landscape is important. After the coalition takes action, it is necessary to re-group in order to maintain the momentum of discussion within the coalition.
Sustainability remains a challenge for media coalitions worldwide. What measures can be taken, in your view, to maximise the chances of a coalition surviving in the long term and continuing to foster the development of the local media environment?
Based on my experience with the Kenya Media Sector Working Group, a basket-funding approach where donors such as SIDA or USAID receive a single proposal from the whole industry instead of several proposals addressing the same thing can be successful. However, after the funds are received, their allocation among the members of the coalition works best if they are given depending on the different organisations' strengths. When doing this, the organisation of meetings and intervention activities is important to prevent the duplication and replication of resources, as well as to maintain the coalition's focus.
In some cases, we have seen coalitions driven by international agencies and donors. What do you see to be the most important contribution of media development agencies to advocacy initiatives?
International media development actors motivate the formation of coalitions, provide financial support, bring expertise, and facilitate network-building among local coalitions. Additionally, these actors also serve to help keep the momentum for reform. Nonetheless, it must be considered that some funds are problematic, and some actors may not be able to respond to emergencies. Some organisations, however, are very flexible and can adjust their budgets quickly.
In your paper on “Mapping Coalitions”, you say that governments may co-opt media and civil society leaders in order to silence outspoken voices. Can you explain how this co-option works and how it can be avoided?
Civil society organisations and media form a rich pool of human resources and experts in diverse fields. This is why in Kenya between 2001 and 2005, some leading organisations were appointed to various government positions. This was done to reward them for being part of the force that protested for democracy, to tap into their expert pool, and to solence civil society and allow the government to reform the economy. Between 2002 and 2011 there was no active civil society in the country.
"We realize that we don't have to fight someone when they come up with a viewpoint that might be inimical to media freedom. What we have to do is to ger them to understand the repercussions of wht they are making a decision on."
The following interview is summarised. The full version is available on pages 6-8 of the report, available here.
MISA’s efforts to introduce media self-regulation in Zambia were supported by BBC Media Action. What do you see to be the main role of international organisations and donors in advocacy initiatives?
International organisations and donors add perspective, and contribute knowledge and expertise that we can then share among us and do things better.
The initiative has been driven by a Technical Working Group. How was the group organised and convened?
The Technical Working Group is a group of people who were chosen to assist with the development of documentation for the self-regulatory body. MISA Zambia assists them with the costs of assembling members, and accessing the expertise that can help them develop laws. They usually meet fortnightly.
Does MISA chair these meetings?
No, we have totally removed ourselves from the picture because we understand that ful ownership comes from full participation. However, we did chair the initial meetings of the Media Liaison Committee.
How have differences of opinion or conflicts within the TWG been resolved or mitigated? What action did you take to bring the process back on track?
There will always be differences of opinion, but they are managed. For instance, when MISA Zambia read the documentation for the ZAMEC bill, we said that if we have a regulation framework that means that if only media with registration can practise in Zambia, journalism as a whole will become very difficult. Thus, we got rid of the mandatory requirement for a practising licence. We also worked to tackle other legal obstacles that prevented journalists from doing their job, although we don't want to use the confrontational approach. Instead, we opt for awareness-raising and an educational approach.
How would you characterise negotiations with government officials in Zambia. Are they open to dialogue? Have you found it easy to build relationships at government level?
Going to the Constitutional Court or the Public Protector is our last resurt. Most of the time we just want to engage with them and reason with them, as to not create enemity and create a wall between the parties. We even sometimes take a back row to let others meet.
Along the way, the government and political factions made repeated attempts to derail the process. How did you establish red lines and maintain them?
We ensured that not all journalists ha to register. We explained the dangers to the Media Liaison Committee and the Technical Working Group and they agreed with our determination. We reached an agreement with the previous government on this, but we are now establishing new discussions with the new government.
What are the next steps for your work in Zambia? Are there other areas of media reform or regulation that you intend to address? Do you intend to widen the scope of your coalition?
Currently, Media in Zambia is experiencing major challenges with sustainability. Journalists' pay is very low, so people who have the right experience have jumped ship and are in public relations or in diplomatic service. The government also tends to clamp down on media houses. Thus, we are on the lookout for situations like this regarding the new government, and try to narrow them down to advocacy to encourage people to backtrack some of the bad decisions they are meaning to take.