Wan-Ifra and UNESCO join forces to support journalism

Move in the face of existential economic menace

Wan-Ifra and UNESCO join forces to support journalism

UNESCO and the World Association of News Publishers (Wan-Ifra) are joining forces to address the impending global emergency facing independent journalism. The announcement of the co-operation was made at the 40th-anniversary celebration of UNESCO’s International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC), an inter-governmental forum for media development.

As the world continues to battle the Covid-19 pandemic and its impact, the decimation of journalism in many areas of the world constitutes a growing threat, bringing existing challenges to a tipping point. Each month brings new reports of job losses in journalism and the closure of once-vibrant local media outlets.

Professional, independent journalism is critical for providing populations with life-saving information during this crisis and plays an essential role in building and strengthening our democracies, justice, and peace,” said the director-general of UNESCO, Audrey Azoulay. “We are deeply concerned about the pandemic’s impact on local economies, threatening the viability of local news media, and we are committed to leading global efforts to overcome this challenge.

As part of the new initiative, a number of joint activities will be undertaken in coordination with a range of partners, including governments, media, civil society, financial institutions, internet companies and other private corporations, philanthropic organizations, individual donors, advertisers, and investors.

The two organizations will co-operate to research the extent of the crisis, consult with stakeholders, share knowledge, and present policy recommendations that could help support the news media’s viability. Wan-Ifra, with its membership of 3,000 news publishing companies, and 60 national associations representing 18,000 publications in 120 countries, will bring its experience, extensive data, and international networks to the initiative.

There are many envisaged outcomes of the initiative. National, donor, and corporate policy agendas have established more strongly the value of a range of mechanisms for support to independent media. Independent media are sharing knowledge on best practices of media viability and resilience and innovating their business models and their advocacy accordingly. Knowledge built about challenges and solutions to business models in the global South and is being used by key media development stakeholders (media, state, private sector, Internet companies, civil society). UNESCO member states are reflecting on media viability at the global level, impacting on norms through raising awareness of the crisis and the need for remedial actions.

The objective is to help catalyze new forms of sustainable business models, especially for community media and those in the global South, and establish the appropriate mechanisms to ensure urgent support while respecting media editorial independence and integrity.

Through this initiative, UNESCO and Wan-Ifra are committed to reaffirming the democratic norms essential to the functioning of society,” said the president of Wan-Ifra, Fernando de Yarza. “We hope to see the agendas of governments, major donors, and public policy experts converge on the vital need to strengthen support for a free, independent press thanks to the solutions this work will propose.”

Independent journalism will be more critical than ever in shaping the societies that emerge as the world rebuilds following this global crisis. If independent journalism is lost as a public good, everyone loses. Without this initiative, much of the news media as we know it may disappear. Much of that which remains will likely be operating with fewer reporters and weakened professional standards and independence.

The two organizations, founded under the same spirit of democracy and historically linked through the promotion of shared values, also appeal to all those who share a common interest in seeing media plurality, journalistic independence, and quality journalism continue. Without it, we put at risk the news media’s important role empowering citizens to make informed decisions about the future of their communities and shape our common understanding of the world around us.

The IPDC’s unique role has been continuously reaffirmed in the UN resolution, “Information in the service of humanity,” adopted on annual basis by the General Assembly. Thanks to the IPDC, there are internationally agreed indicators to assess media and internet development. The program is also the cradle of the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity – amongst many other achievements. The program, over four decades, has supported more than 2,000 media development projects with grants of more than 120 million USD (approximately Rs 887 crore) in 140 developing countries.

2023 promises an interesting ride for print in India

Indian Printer and Publisher founded in 1979 is the oldest B2B trade publication in the multi-platform and multi-channel IPPGroup. While the print and packaging industries have been resilient in the past 33 months since the pandemic lockdown of 25 March 2020, the commercial printing and newspaper industries have yet to recover their pre-Covid trajectory.

The fragmented commercial printing industry faces substantial challenges as does the newspaper industry. While digital short-run printing and the signage industry seem to be recovering a bit faster, ultimately their growth will also be moderated by the progress of the overall economy. On the other hand book printing exports are doing well but they too face several supply-chain and logistics challenges.

The price of publication papers including newsprint has been high in the past year while availability is diminished by several mills shutting down their publication paper and newsprint machines in the past four years. Indian paper mills are also exporting many types of paper and have raised prices for Indian printers. To some extent, this has helped in the recovery of the digital printing industry with its on-demand short-run and low-wastage paradigm.

Ultimately digital print and other digital channels will help print grow in a country where we are still far behind in our paper and print consumption and where digital is a leapfrog technology that will only increase the demand for print in the foreseeable future. For instance, there is no alternative to a rise in textbook consumption but this segment will only reach normality in the next financial year beginning on 1 April 2023.

Thus while the new normal is a moving target and many commercial printers look to diversification, we believe that our target audiences may shift and change. Like them, we will also have to adapt with agility to keep up with their business and technical information needs.

Our 2023 media kit is ready, and it is the right time to take stock and reconnect with your potential markets and customers. Print is the glue for the growth of liberal education, new industry, and an emerging economy. We seek your participation in what promises to be an interesting ride.

– Naresh Khanna

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