Book launch 21.09.2021: Statebuilding Missions and Media Development by Kerstin Tomiak

Join us for an exciting event on 21 September 2021 @ 3pm UK time! We will launch Kerstin Tomiak’s new book entitled ‘Statebuilding Missions and Media Development. A context-sensitive approach’.

Here’s what Kerstin says about it:
Media development, initiatives to support media in the global South, can be considered a standard practice in interventions in post/conflict countries. The United Nations (UN) routinely set up radio stations during their missions and countless nongovernmental organisations (NGOs) are engaged in communication campaigns including media development. Media initiatives are so common that one of the South Sudanese media managers interviewed for the book Statebuilding Missions and Media Development: A Context-Sensitive Approach simply remarked that “Media development is the in-thing, it is very sexy. Everyone is doing it.”

The popularity of media development is not new but has steadily increased among donors and international development actors since the fall of communism. Western donors and media experts understand media as a tool to create legitimacy, support good governance, and help populations make informed choices in elections. With this, media development is part of the liberal peace. In recent years, however, liberalism has increasingly been disregarded as the ideological foundation of statebuilding and peacebuilding. Instead, with its attention to local voices, the local turn asks for the decolonisation of – among others – the media.

Based on these ideas and drawing on extensive fieldwork in South Sudan, I investigate how a local population understands media. She investigates the effects of Western media interventions from a local perspective and argues that, in practice, media development can lead to unintended and negative consequences for social relations in a country. A media that is set up ‘western-style’ and aims to act as a watchdog on a government can damage relations between local governments, populations, and donors. But a media that is set up according to local wishes instead might be seen as a support for an illiberal system or authoritarian state system instead. This is the dilemma of media development: shall it support local wishes even in case these wishes go against western aims and ideas of development? Local and international actors potentially contradictory understanding of and wishes for media can lead either to a rather colonial undertaking or to the support of an – in western views – undesirable system. Looking at the media in Juba from a South Sudanese perspective, the book aims to start to unpack this dilemma. It does not argue for the end of all media support – far from it. But it does argue against an ideology-driven kind of media development and instead, endorses a culturally sensitive and context-specific approach.

Kerstin is joined by Nicole Stremlau who will act as a discussant!

If you want to join us at 3pm UK time on 21 September please email:

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