WASHINGTON, May 2, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- May 3rd marks World Press Freedom Day and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has been supporting the development of independent media for more than twenty years. A free and independent media has the power to elevate citizen concerns, hold governments accountable, break down stereotypes, give voice to dissenting views, challenge the status quo and speak truth to power. The media is also the means by which citizens can engage in local, regional and global discussions. USAID will continue to support the organizations and journalists who provide citizens with fact-based information that serves the public interest.
"From Tahrir Square to internet cafes across the Mideast, people everywhere are seizing the power of independent media to advance democracy and human rights," said Dr. Rajiv Shah, Administrator for the U.S. Agency for International Development. "As we commemorate World Press Freedom Day, I would like to emphasize our support for the journalists, editors, and media professionals who work tirelessly to safeguard media freedoms, broaden public discourse, and increase transparency and accountability."
USAID support for independent media development began in Europe and Eurasia to counter the dependency of those countries on state-sponsored news and information. Today, USAID invests approximately $500 million annually to support civil society and media projects globally. Our projects support local media outlets, professional training for media workers, legislative and regulatory reform, community-based media development and incorporation of new technologies to increase the flow, exchange and access to information – including citizen-generated news and information. We support this work because we recognize that functioning democracies require open communication between citizens and those elected to govern them.
We support independent media in nearly half of the countries in which we operate. This work remains critically important to all of our development goals and supports our values and belief in the fundamental, universal rights of freedom of speech and freedom of the press.
Examples of USAID's media development programs include:
In Afghanistan, USAID will be setting up the Mobile Khabar news and information platform, which will collect all of the country's available news and information content and make it available to Afghans via their mobile phones.
Throughout the Balkans, USAID supported the development of a regional network of investigative journalists, allowing for collaboration and joint publication of dozens of influential reports that revealed endemic corruption and illicit activities.
In South Africa, USAID-sponsored trade publications fill a significant economic growth information gap. The newsletter provides the private sector, governments, civil society, and donor organizations with reliable information on trade and competitiveness issues and resources.
In Senegal USAID is funding a project to strengthen the voice of women in the media to develop women's leadership roles at the local level.
In Armenia USAID is supporting a four-year effort to empower citizen production and sharing of news content and to improve media literacy by the public.
USAID support in Egypt provided training and technical assistance on new information communication technologies to independent media institutions. These trainings increased citizen access to information, and increased communication between civil society and media organizations.
On World Press Freedom Day, we stand with journalists all over the world and especially those who are working in conditions of great peril. We remember those who have lost their lives covering stories, and we stand in solidarity with those who work in states where their voices are muffled.