Q&A with the Media Diversity Institute

The Media Diversity Institute (MDI) works internationally to encourage and facilitate responsible media coverage of diversity. It aims to prevent the media from intentionally or unintentionally spreading prejudice, intolerance and hatred; encouraging instead, fair, accurate, inclusive and sensitive media coverage in order to promote understanding between different groups and cultures.

The clip below is taken from MDI’s inclusive training in Southern Sudan in November-December 2010 and offers a quick insight into the Institute’s work.

Such issues are commonly faced by Romedia so it was with great interest that we heard the thoughts of MDI’s Executive Director, Milica Pesic in a recent interview.

To what degree to do you think MDI has been successful so far in reaching its goals?

Media Diversity Institute’s work on promoting inclusive and accurate media worldwide never stops. We believe that our 15 years of work in this field raised the level of journalism in many regions of the world, and by doing so, has helped to achieve a more inclusive media scene.

During times of revolution in the Arab world and protests springing up across Europe, what role has MDI played in promoting balanced and fair media coverage of the events?

MDI had and still has long term projects in Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia. Series of workshops all over Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region are based on international standards and principles of free expression, diversity, inclusiveness, transparency and public accountability.

Taken from MDI's 2009-2011 project "Reporting Diversity: a Pilot Media Programme to Promote Inter-Community Dialogue and Social Inclusion in Morocco"

Our goal is to support a more inclusive approach that ensures diverse regional and rural, as well as urban voices, across the country being heard in national debate on all issues relevant to all citizens.

Is there a perfect media diversity model which other countries should be aspiring to?

We believe that the British model of promoting diversity is still the best example of inclusiveness and media diversity. This does not make it perfect, just not as bad as the rest. Still, when we talk about Britain, despite the dedicated  diversity channels and responsible reporting on most diversity issues, reporting on Roma and the Traveller communities is still quite negative.

In which regions or countries is media diversity proving most difficult to encourage and promote?

At the moment there is an obvious need for our work first of all in the MENA region, as it is going through turmoil. But at the same time we believe in constantly improving the diversity in the media scene of developed countries in the Western world.

What are the main obstacles you encounter to media diversity?

Obstacles vary from region to the region: it can be lack of journalistic technique on one hand, but can be over confidence on the other, and deeply rooted prejudice of which people are generally unaware.

How much experience have you had working on coverage of Roma issues in Europe?  

I (Milica Pesic) as an executive Director of MDI, and MDI itself, have over 15 years of professional experience in tackling the issues of Romaphobia in the mainstream media.

These are two projects with spanned two years at the turn of the century and again at the middle of the last decade:

1999 – 2001 Seeing the Roma without prejudice

2004-2005 Seeing the Roma without prejudice

At the moment, Romaphobia is increasing, and we find the situation in the Balkans especially dire, as there are more and more reports on how media there is misrepresenting the Roma community. At the same time, the trend of targeting Roma who want to travel abroad as possible asylum seekers and media reports surrounding the issue worries us.

What are the aspirations of MDI in the long and short term future? What do you hope to have achieved in 10 years’ time?

The goal of promoting inclusive and accurate media will continue to be MDI’s remit. We hope to achieve less prejudiced and more inclusive media.

Milica Pesic, Executive Director, MDI