Media and Security Sector Reform

The media landscape has changed dramatically over the last two decades. There has been an unprecedented expansion of access to information. The modern news cycle allows for instant visibility of local events to a global audience and increased possibilities for citizen and civil society participation in the generation of news . Secondly, there has been a growing change in public expectations regarding security and justice issues. The debate over personal and media freedoms and national security needs is still ongoing in many parts of the world. This reflects a concrete interest by the public to remain informed on issues dealing with their security and justice needs. This webpage has been based on the Practical Note on Media and SSR developed by ISSAT. 

DCAF/ISSAT Knowledge Products

  1. Using the Toolkit and Acquiring Training Skills
  2. The Media and Security Sector Governance
  3. Media Freedom and Security Sector Governance
  4. Access to Information and Security Sector Governance
  5. Reporting Community Safety
  6. Social Media and Security Sector Governance

Key Resources

Policy and Research Papers:

Videos: 

Entry Points - SSR Perspective

1. Consultations: media actors and platforms are key to inform and channel community needs and expectations towards decision-making bodies.

2.  Legal Framework Assessments :

  • Extent and quality of information access;
  • Freedom of information applied to official documents (e.g. open governmental databases) and documents of “public interest”;
  • Whistleblower protection measures ;
  • Rules and practice of classification (e.g. extension/over-classification).

3. Media Oversight Opportunities: Capacity development of media actors and platformsto monitor the formal democratic oversight functions of the security sector (e.g. Parliament’s Defence, Police, Justice related proceedings).

4. Financial-reporting as crucial enabler of democratic governance.

5. Integration of media actors and platforms as a Monitoring & Evaluation mechanism for SSR programming.

6. Assessment of the intelligence framework and intelligence reform:

  • Classification of information (who does it, who enforces it, who sanctions it and who uses it?);
  • Legal definition of crimes against State security;
  • Ultimate control over wireless communications (State vs operator);
  • Legal framework of surveillance (including of Internet traffic and wireless data);
  • Access to public but confidential archives for vetting reasons (e.g. of staff serving past regimes, lists of human rights perpetrators, etc.)

Entry Points - Media Perspective

  1. Reforms take time. The first challenge for engaging media actors in Security Sector Reform is related to capacity building. Awareness and capability are needed to go beyond short-term incident-focused approaches towards longer-term approaches focusing on issues, contexts, and trends.
  2. Information access is closely linked to power access. Acting on the former will likely impact on the latter. Reform processes are strengthened by broad participation, which in turn depends on access to information as an empowering factor, bringing marginal constituencies into the political process where reform is shaped and sustained.
  3. Behavioral change is a complex process. Research shows that support for long-term change depends less on what is said and more on how it is being articulated. Challenging entrenched beliefs, mindsets or cultural models requires reversing existing “patterns of expectation” which is a lengthy and difficult process.
  4. Reform needs to be articulated around outcomes not just solutions. SSR proposals need to be unpacked, explaining how they improve outcomes. Solution-oriented messaging can be counter-productive.
  5. Decision-making is context-specific. It is the result of a complex socio-cultural process involving a diverse set of actors. SSR communications should be framed based on that understanding when it provides information and analysis regarding the context, relations, and power dynamics.
  6. SSR processes need to be communicated in a holistic manner. SSR has to be communicated as part of a holistic socio-political change process. In that sense, reform proposals alone don’t speak for themselves; they need a full explanation of context, variables, and mechanisms.
Top Photo Credit: UN Photo/Cia Pak