Shaping media & digital ecosystems

Guy Berger in front of a screen at World Press Freedom Day in Addis Ababa 2019
World Press Freedom Day, Addis Ababa, 2019

CommsPolicy.Africa is a site created by Guy Berger, independent expert and consultant in media and internet policy issues.

From 2011 to 2022, he led UNESCO’s global work in these areas. With an African focus, the same topics featured in his work between 1994-2010 at Rhodes University, South Africa, where he is recognized as an emeritus professor. In 2023, he was designated as Distinguished Fellow at the Cape-Town based thinktank, Research ICT Africa.

G.Berger@ru.ac.za *** Twitter *** Mastodon *** Latest writings

Consider these ideas:

Some say Africa’s comms problems aren’t a result of poor policy, but bad implementation of policy. True to a point. But good public policy should anticipate and provide for practical problems – like: weak state capacity or partisan “capture” that contradicts public interest.

It’s nowadays a cliché that policy should be “evidence-based”. Yes, research – including into due diligence and impact-assessment on human rights – is fundamental.

At the same time, what makes for “evidence”? Because there are different possible assemblies of “facts” – and on the other side of the coin – “significant data silences”. These get mobilized for different narratives and agendas. “Evidence” does not exist in splendid isolation: it is identified, gathered and interpreted – in which perspectives on policy play a key role.

So, policy is profoundly political.  Contestation of interests and ideologies is endemic to policy research, design, implementation, monitoring and review. And the results shape whether a society will enjoy or not benefits like:

  • Respect for people’s rights to free expression, with any restrictions (eg. on hate speech) being clearly justified and limited (and monitored and reviewed) in terms of the standards set out in international human rights law.
  • Accountability of media and Internet platforms to effective codes of conduct which promote quality information rather than other content that can harm human rights (like the rights to health, political participation, safety, etc.)
  • Protection for journalists online and offline, and an end to impunity for attacks on them
  • Upholding privacy rights – but while also unlocking private and public data for public interest purposes (with safeguards)
  • Mechanisms and measures to ensure that the communications landscape is really pluralistic and inclusive, that journalists are equipped to do justice to covering AI, green energy, etc., and that the public is Media and Information Literate and deeply cherishes freedom of expression, privacy and access to information.

Why this site?

A career of focus on national, regional and global policy perspectives has produced many insights worth sharing. These reflect learning gained during:

  • Berger’s decade as UNESCO’s director for freedom of expression and media development, where his remit spanned the spectrum of press freedom (on- and offline) and internet governance policy issues. 
  • In 15 years of leadership of the School of Journalism and Media Studies at Rhodes University, where Berger researched, taught and did extensive policy advocacy especially with an African focus.

Numbers:

  • More than 60 books/monographs and/or chapters in books, have been amongst Berger’s outputs (including overseeing more than 40 official UNESCO publications). A selection can be found here.
  • On more than 300 formal occasions, Berger has interacted with thousands of stakeholders as an expert speaker on CommsPolicy, and across a very wide range of countries.

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