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Global Media Forum Day 1: First Encounters

Global Media Conference poster in Bonn / photo: Cristina Viehmann, ISN

Global Media Conference poster in Bonn / photo: Cristina Viehmann, ISN

Once the capital of West Germany, the city of Bonn appears unexpectedly modest and tranquil today. However, some converted official buildings and the placards reminding of the 60th anniversary of the Federal Republic do actually bring back the city’s important steps in Germany’s democratic history.

Despite its apparent modesty, what Bonn represents today is a perfect conference city. Exempli gratia, more than 4,000 participants are meeting these days in Bonn for the Climate Change Talks.

These talks are taking place very close to the World Conference Centre, hosting the 1500 participants that have registered for this year’s Global Media Forum. (Just as a side note: I was told by one of the organizers that 1500 will unfortunately not be the real number of participants. Numerous registrations from African countries were more of the fictive kind, since visas were only accorded to the very few.)

My first insightful encounter was with the people from U-Media, a Ukranian Internews project. Internews is an NGO fighting for the independence of information by empowering local media. As for U-Media, its goal is to develop a more robust media sector that works to serve the interests of independent media in the Ukraine.

U-Media staff explained how difficult it is to attain such a goal in country whose economy is about to fall. And yes, the good news is that bad media – as they call it – is disappearing. But the bulk of the biased media is not – it remains in the hands of oligarchs. As for the support of new media, it is very hard for U-Media to make its way through in a country with an internet penetration of only 22% (you can compare it to the 53.9% in the neighboring EU member country Romania.)

Like the USAID-sponsored Intermedia, the Thomson Foundation trains and supports journalists throughout the world. With the Thomson Foundation representative I discussed the case of Mizzima.com, the New Delhi based news agency run by Burmese people in exile offering coverage on the country. A Deutsche Welle reporter for Hindi told us about his idea of India supporting Mizzima to establish a rebel radio for Burma.

Many ideas in the air, as you can see. Looking forward to the conference itself and to more encounters tomorrow.

One Person’s Dream and Another’s Nightmare

When in Milan last week, my eyes were seduced by big posters showing picturesque coastlines and romantic sceneries with ruins of antique temples in the foreground. Pure beauty, a pleasure for the eyes and the traveller in me craving. „Tunisia“ it said on the posters, „la vacanza piu’ vicina ai tuoi sogni“ – the holidays closest to your dreams.

Screenshot of tunisiaturismo.it

Screenshot of www.tunisiaturismo.it

My emotions still captured by the beautiful images, I started to realize that these were the work of the Tunisian tourist industry, which was running a big scale advertisement campaign in the Metropolitana, the Milanese underground. But not only there: On a piazza close to Milan’s famous Duomo Tunisia Turismo had built a tent where it presented the destination with music, food and folklore.

Whereas the latter seemed corny and did not appeal to me the posters did. But there was one problem. The beautiful images clashed in my head with the notion of Tunisia being a country where civil liberties have been restricted and where government censorship and self-censorship has infected the society. Over the last decade or so, Tunisia has become an autocratic regime under the rule of the president with the poetic name Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali.

Nevertheless, in times when the Italian people seem to be hit hard by the economic crisis, the advertisers have a very good argument: “Tunisia, un Paese vicino, dall’atmosfera esotica”. Even though Tunisia is very close to Italy (read inexpensive to visit), it is an exotic place.

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Somalicruises.com: This Is A Joke, Right? Right?

I can’t remember how I happened upon this:

Meals not provided

Meals not provided

Okay, okay. It’s a joke.

I *did* do a ‘who is’ though to find out who was behind the site. The folks were clever enough to use domain privacy.

But, you know something? I wouldn’t be shocked if someone was getting a business plan together and pricing a few vessels right now.

By the way, check out John CK Daly’s report on piracy and Mara Caputo’s take on the situation in Security Watch.

Screenshot: somalicruises.com

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A New Global Fund?

More healthy mothers and children is the goal.

More healthy mothers and children is the goal / photo: Alemush, flickr

“Why don’t we have a Global Fund for maternal health, like the one for TB, malaria and AIDS?”, implored Dr Siriel Nanzia Massawe, an obstetrician in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

I was jolted by this desperate doctor’s question, buried in a recent New York Times article about the prevalence of maternal deaths during pregnancy and childbirth in sub-Saharan Africa.

You mean we don’t have a Global Fund fighting maternal – and for that matter, child – mortality? I wondered incredulously.

After all, two of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) call for a significant reduction in child and maternal mortality by 2015. And former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan established the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria in 2001 to reach this third health-related MDG.

So why has only the MDG addressing communicable diseases been deemed worthy of a Global Fund? After all, the international community is far behind on all MDG health-related targets: maternal mortality has been stagnant for two decades; more than nine million children under age five still die every year; and AIDS infection rates are still too high for antiretroviral treatments to keep pace.

Clearly, a more synergized and streamlined approach to the three health-related MDGs is desperately needed. Each one impacts the other: For example, AIDS and malaria cause specific complications for pregnant women and their fetus’s development.

In the end, perhaps every one of these MDG initiatives could be more fully realized if greater attention were paid to how they interact. Has the time for an integrated Global Fund for Health arrived?

ISN Weekly Theme: The Israel-Palestine Conflict

Peres Center for Peace Soccer Game, with Israeli and Palestinian coaches / photo: WrenB, flickr

Peres Center for Peace soccer game, Israeli and Palestinian coaches / photo: WrenB, flickr

It’s one of the oldest and most controversial conflicts in history: The Israeli-Palestine Conflict. We’re dedicating this week to examining the issue, presenting views from all sides.

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