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We believe there's a strong link between good, questioning, independent, courageous media and development.  Journalists can and should make things better in the societies where they operate.  This underpins the Jemstone mission"supporting media supporting development".

Jemstone seeks to strengthen media which see their role as trying to provide people with the information they need to make decisions about their lives. Jemstone actively works with media organisations focussing on development. And Jemstone tries to support development by providing media and communications consultancy and training.

For example we ran capacity-building and career development workshops for Al Jazeera in Doha; we provide economic and environmental training for the media; we help ngos with media relations and have designed and maintained the biggest development web-site in Jordan www.jordandevnet.org

We bring a development perspective to journalism (what difference will this make to ordinary people?) and we open up development issues to journalistic scrutiny and public attention

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  • if you have examples of the links between good media and development or
  • if our communication skills can help with your development project or
  • if our development experience can improve your journalism or your media organisation.

Since May 1998 it's been obvious to us that there are close links between "good media" and development.  We wrote about it at that time, here on the Jemstone web-site, as soon as we got back from a conference in Denmark on the relationship between:

  • information technology
  • freedom of expression
  • democracy
  • development

These were early days and we just posed a couple of the underlying questions: "It is true that better information technology should lead to greater freedom of expression; this in turn ought to support democracy; and this is likely to lead to more and faster development.  But this process is not inevitable.  So, we are very interested in exploring why it doesn't always work. . . . . . And how do we justify spending scarce resources on information technology when agricultural investment (for example) would bring more obvious and immediate benefits?"


Since then we've become aware we're not alone in our belief that good media can make a difference.  In 1999 James Wolfensohn, President of the World Bank, set out similar views in a speech in Washington.  And we worked with the Bank, running their media relations at the Mediterranean Development Forum in Cairo in 2000 on the theme "Voices for Change, Partners for Prosperity".   Many of the arguments about media and development are laid out in the book "The Right to Tell", with a foreword written by the Bank President:

". . .I have long argued that a free press is not a luxury.  It is at the core of equitable
development.  The media can expose corruption.  They can keep a check on public policy by
throwing a spotlight on government action.  They let people voice diverse opinions on
governance and reform, and help build public consensus to bring about change.  Such media
help markets work better. . . .  They can facilitate trade, transmitting ideas and innovation
across boundaries.  We have also seeen that the media are important for human development,
bringing health and education information to remote villages in countries from Uganda to
Nicaragua."

One of the most thoughtful modern British journalists, Professor Ian Hargreaves, former head of news at the BBC, Deputy Editor of the Financial Times and Editor of The Independent, introduces his recent book 'Journalism -- truth or dare?' by stating:

"It is now widely understood that without abundant and accessible information, we can have neither the democracy in which we believe not the economic growth and consumer choice we
desire . . . good journalism provides the information and opinion upon which successful
democratic societies depend.  Corrupt that and you corrupt everything."

Looking from the other end of the relationship between good media and development, the economist and Nobel Prize Winner, Amartya Sen, in his revolutionary book 'Development as Freedom" provides compelling evidence that the negation of development occurs when democracy (including the public's right to be informed) is absent:

"Democratic governments. . . have to win elections and face public criticism, and have strong incentives to undertake measures to avert famines and other catastrophes.  It is not surprising that no famine has ever taken place in the history of the world in a functioning democracy. . ."

It is in this space that Jemstone operates, "supporting media supporting development".

JEMSTONE: consultants in communications and development:  If the job of the good journalist is to find out what's going on, to understand it and then to let people know about it, (as interestingly and accurately as possible), then we try to go beyond this process -- at the beginning by helping to provide a flow of interesting, stimulating stories and information and at the end by advising how the information can have an impact.
Untainted information is essential for democracy and development and for more than ten years we have been working at every stage of this process, knowing that to put the right information in the right hands at the right time is what makes a difference.

  • We support good journalism -- we ran six workshops in the first half of 2001 for Al Jazeera TV and we have worked actively 'training' over 1,500 local journalists and media professionals and sixty of the main media organisations in the MENA region since the early 1990s.
  • We have grasped the opportunities offered by new technology -- operating the first inter-active regional media web-site since 1996 and establishing the big development web site www.jordandevnet.org
  • We work with development organisations -- to build communications capacity and understanding internally and to help them to put their case to decision-makers and the wider public: we were responsible for media relations and strategey at the World Bank's MDF3 in Cairo; we've run a series of workshops for ngos in Jordan on communications and development; we organised the Volunteer of the Year Award in Jordan and have launched special web-sites on the Millennium Development Goals and Sustainable Human Development www.jordandevnet.org

PROCESSING INFORMATION:   If we regard the media as being at the heart of the analysis then we need to upgrade the performance of individual journalists and their media organisations.  This is where we began and we've been doing it since 1993, with over 40 media training courses, workshops and seminars.  We believe that independent, questioning, courageous journalism can make a difference both socially and economically --  rooting out corruption, holding those in and with power to account and giving a voice to the poor and disadvantaged. 

THE FLOW  OF INFORMATION:   If the media are at the centre, then the first stage of the process is obtaining information.  This includes developing the journalists' ability to obtain the information -- we ran workshops on investigative journalism in Jordan in 1999 and 2002 and in Cairo and Sana'a in 2000.  The practical booklet we produced, in both English and Arabic, has been widely circulated.

But access to information is also about the legal framework and climate and, more practically, about the attitude of the whole range of organisations to providing information.  We have supported initiatives towards greater freedom of information, even campaigning openly against restrictive media laws as well as lobbying discreetly at senior levels. 

And we have worked with organisations to ensure that more information is more readily available and in an accessible format.  This includes workshops on communications for ngos and newsletter writing for Jordan's Ministry of Social Development, which are as much about establishing the public's right to have the information as about the technical issues.  We also have projects at the organisational level, trying to collate and disseminate useful information for the media through our web-sites, eg Jemstone's Journalinks and DevNet's events diary and the contacts directory.

THE POWER OF INFORMATION:   "So you give people the truth -- what are they going to do with it if they don't have democracy?"  This quote, from the Jemstone booklet on independent and investigative journalism, points like an arrow towards the third element in any communications and development strategy.  Though making information available is an essential first step (and for many, including good journalists, often an end in itself) it is not normally enough to bring about change. 

In societies where the public's ability to influence events is minimal it is naive to expect that the mere publication of a news story or feature will make much difference.  That requires a more sophisticated understanding of the policy-making process.  This is not to say that mass media have no part to play; they help to create a climate where change is desired and acceptable.  We have recently submitted proposals to develop Sudan TV and radio as more of a 'forum for public discussion' than just a means of conveying government decisions to the masses.  For us such a reform would widen and improve the popular debate, increase people's understanding of the issues and start to demonstrate to those in power that, if their aim is greater success and prosperity for their country, they can do their job more effectively with public involvement, support and ideas.

MAKING CHANGES: Changing attitudes and behaviour are not easy -- you have to predispose people towards change, then enable them to make the change and then reinforce the process once the changes have been made.  This applies at the individual level and also organisationally and governmentally.  By giving individuals information, examples, encouragement and support, change can be facilitated and this can have implications wider than the individuals involved  (Professor Robert Chambers' 'benign virus' theories). 
Sometimes though more cynical approaches are required, where opponents and obstacles have to be identified and neutralised, essential supporters have to be rallied and empowered and the decision-making process understood in detail.  We have had experience of converting ideas into policy in Europe (involving nuclear waste, community schools and Euro-Med media policy) and now we are exploring with several local development organisations the possibilities within the region of helping to turn high-quality participatory research findings into effective new policies.
 
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