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Russia Decides to Join UNESCO-Led Program for Free and Pluralistic Media in Developing Countries .

August 7, 2021

By Kester Kenn Klomegah

The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has announced that it would allocate US$1 million to an international program that promotes free media in developing countries over the next five years.

The funds will go toward UNESCO’s International Program for the Development of Communication (IPDC) at US$250,000 per year in Africa, Latin America, and Asia, as well as in post-Soviet countries, from 2022-2025, according to the Foreign Ministry’s official statement.

“The key areas of work will be increasing journalists’ safety in armed conflict zones, improving journalistic education and professional ethics, combating disinformation and ‘fake news,’ including about the coronavirus pandemic,” the statement said.

The IPDC is the only multilateral forum in the UN system designed to mobilize the international community to discuss and promote media development in developing countries. The Program not only provides support for media projects but also seeks an accord to secure a healthy environment for the growth of free and pluralistic media in developing countries.

“Our country stood at the origins of the Communication Development Program established by the UNESCO General Conference in 1980 in the interest of building a fairer and more democratic ‘new international information order’. We believe that this task still maintains its relevance and importance,” the Foreign Ministry said.The Ministry expects that “leading Russian media and journalistic associations will take part in the implementation of specific initiatives”.

Several policy experts and analysts interviewed on support for the media in global South and in its neighboring post-Soviet republics, point out that rather than criticizing other global players, particularly the Western countries, Russia should support IPDC in a strategic manner and readjust its status quo.

The Russian Foreign Ministry, over the years, has complained and criticized financial support especially that coming from the United States and Europe for educational programs, media and NGOs in Africa. It further described allocation of financial resources, in the field of public diplomacy, as another manifestation of neo-colonialism, for instance, in Africa.

Informed sources said that the current allocation through UNESCO represents an international development effort, as Russia is known to contribute to many United Nations-led programs and projects, and this time investing in free press abroad is not something people can expect from the Russian government that makes every effort to stifle the independent voices at home.

Russia abruptly forced British Council, American Education Council and Alliance Française to end their operations in the Russia Federation. During the past two decades, many foreign media and non-governmental organizations have been designated as undesirable and were forced to close operations in the Russian Federation.

According to UNESCO, the efforts of the IPDC have had an important impact on a broad range of fields covering, among others, the promotion of media independence and pluralism, development of community media, radio and television organizations, modernization of national and regional news agencies, and training of media professionals. IPDC has mobilized some US$ 120 million for over 2000 projects in more than 140 developing countries and countries in transition.

For political and ethical reasons, multilateral cooperation is the most appropriate way of promoting media development. International assistance provided through IPDC does not interfere with the integrity and independence of media institutions, says UNESCO.

It adds: more than ever, the IPDC now strives to realize more effective media projects that empower people to gain equitable access to knowledge and express themselves through free and pluralistic media.

*This story first appeared on InDepthNews.] 

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