We, practitioners and representatives of community media, took part in the second regional conference for community media in North Africa and the Middle East under the title “Channeling our Voices” held in Cairo 25-27 February 2013. The conference was organised by Community Media Network (CMN) from Jordan and Community Media Solutions (CMS) frm the UK, in cooperation with UNESCO and AMARC and with the support of the Swedish International Development Agency and the British Foreign Commonwealth Office.
After many specialised plenary and workshop sessions aimed at reaching common ground regarding the legislative, political, social and cultural enviorment regulating community media, w
e have concluded that the radio frequency environment remains restricted in favour of governmental and commercial use, frustrating the possibility of growth of community radio and its emergence as a major contributor to sustainable development as it is has proved in the rest of the world.
Legislation, for the most part, still gives public and commercial broadcasters a monopoly and fails to recognise community broadcasting whose importance for freedom of expression reflects the aspirations of peoples and their right to communication whether by radio or other means.
The political, social, economic and legislative environment is not enabling community media to reflect the desires of civil society and denies the possibility of an interactive media culture.
We have also concluded that internet broadcasting lacks the basic requirements for success on the technical and professional levels which therefore lessens its ability to continue and be effective.
We note the absence of organized and coherent measures to support and to sustain the work of community media which reduces its quality and is not consistent with international standards for the freedom of expression guaranteed in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and similarly in Article 19 of the International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights in addition to numerous Arab and African pronouncements and declarations which specify the need to give broadcasters ample opportunity to interact freely in media outlets owned by local communities.
Therefore we the practitioners and representatives of community media in the Middle East and North Africa recommend the following:
Amendment of legislation, regulations and orders that restrict the ownership of community media to bring them into accordance with internationally accepted criteria as established by active international bodies including UNESCO. Furthermore attention should be given to the reduction of fees and other financial requirements for not for profit community media organizations to a symbolic level and to cancel all customs and other taxes on equipment for community radios. We call for an advocacy campaign to accomplish these legislative, regulatory and administrative changes which would include suggesting alternative laws consistent with international treaties regulating freedom of expression and broadcasting.
The need to speed up and increase professional practices of community media journalists, technicians and administrators. This should include guaranteeing plurality and diversity so as to fully represent societies and to increase awareness of best legal and ethical practices without getting into issues of responsibility. Training should also include technical support and internships within existing media outlets and with experts in community media.
The need to network and work collectively to exchange experiences that reflect success and effective practices for this sector and to distribute this culture among peoples.
The need to setup specialized local, and regional legal bodies that can provide support and training for practitioners in this sector as well as to provide legal aid and support in their communities if they are victims of violations that deter and prevent them from carrying out their work. These bodies should be able to monitor and document violations and issue regular reports detailing these violations
Issued in Cairo Wednesday 27th of February 2013