International Media Assistance is an Underappreciated Key to Democratic Development

Sustained and committed support of independent news media can make a dramatic difference in creating sustainable development and democracy in the world, according to a newly-released report from the Center for International Media Assistance (CIMA) at the National Endowment for Democracy (NED).

The report, entitled Empowering Independent Media: U.S. Efforts to Foster Free and Independent News Around the World, provides an in-depth assessment of U.S. international media development efforts, both public and private, and calls on future efforts to be more long-term, comprehensive, and need-driven.

The U.S., through government and private sector initiatives, spends at least $142 million annually on media development efforts in countries around the world. These activities include training journalists, granting seed money for news media outlets, supporting professional associations, and providing legal expertise on media laws.

Media assistance, the report says, is increasingly being regarded as a fundamental building block in developing democratic states. These efforts can help countries make democratic transitions, spur economic growth, improve government accountability, conduct public health campaigns, increase education and literacy levels, and empower women and minorities.

CIMA’s report calls for increased funding, personnel, and recognition of this important and relatively new development field. Although funding for media assistance increased after the fall of communism, support too often has been fragmented, it says.

Recommending a more holistic assistance approach, the report looks at the international media development field from a number of perspectives: funding, professional development, education, the legal-enabling environment, economic sustainability, media literacy, new media, and monitoring and evaluation.

“We hope that this report will be an important tool for policymakers and donors as they look at support of international media development as well as for those who carry out this important work internationally,” CIMA Senior Director Marguerite H. Sullivan said.

The report’s recommendations include:

  • increasing funding for international media development
  • establishing media development as its own sector of international assistance rather than only as a part of other development efforts as is the current trend
  • taking longer-term approaches to projects
  • engaging the local media community more in project design and implementation
  • improving journalists’ professional skills and ethical standards
  • providing greater support to improve the legal-enabling environment
  • emphasizing media literacy more for the public and government officials
  • building stronger media management skills
  • integrating new technology
  • refining monitoring and evaluation methods
  • improving coordination among donors and implementers
  • integrating communication for development strategies in overall media assistance efforts

Empowering Independent Media is the culmination of CIMA’s work since its inception in late 2006, and draws upon its reports, working group discussions, meetings, and additional research on topics ranging from public and private funding of projects and the financial sustainability of independent media outlets to global investigative journalism and community radio development.

To download a copy of the report, please visit CIMA’s Web site at

To request a hard copy, please email


CIMA works to strengthen the support, raise the visibility, and improve the effectiveness of media assistance programs worldwide by providing information, building networks, conducting research, and highlighting the indispensable role independent media play in developing sustainable democracies around the world. For more information on CIMA, please visit:

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