Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Development and free media

Before I came over here I quoted from the new Liberal Democrat document Accountability to the Poor (which was subsequently approved as party policy at our Conference in Liverpool), applauding its emphasis on the importance of political reform in furthering development.

I have just been to a session here at the UN Week Digital Media Lounge at the 92Y which suggests that another central liberal belief - the importance of a free press - is relevant to development too.

The session was entitled "Media Development" and looked in particular at the Media Map Project and various attempts to measure how free a country's media (both the conventional press and the new web-based forms) is.

Media development is based upon the insight that the free exchange of information is central to the fostering of democratic government, a free market and accountability in both business and the political sphere.

Various telling statistics were quoted: in sub-Saharan Africa rates of economic development are closely correlated with how free a country's press is. The speakers argued that spending on media development is a very efficient way of promoting development more generally.

All this links back to what Andrew Mitchell was saying the other evening about the importance of strengthening civil society in the developing world - and in some Western nations too.

But at the heart of media development is the argument of Amartya Sen that there has never been a famine in a country with a free press.

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