On Thursday, December 1, Indiana University’s School of Global and International Studies (SGIS) joined CIMA and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) in announcing a new partnership, the Mark Helmke Postdoctoral Scholarship on Global Media, Development, and Democracy. The announcement coincided with the tenth anniversary of CIMA, founded in 2006 as an initiative of the National Endowment for Democracy.
To mark the occasion, CIMA Advisory Council member Representative Adam Schiff (D-CA) joined Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN), NED President Carl Gershman, SGIS Dean Lee Feinstein, and a distinguished panel to discuss Democracy and the Media Challenge in the 21st Century. As Senator Lugar stressed, “Democracy and the rule of law cannot thrive without a vigilant media.” It was with this in mind that he and then-staffer, the late Mark Helmke, penned the 2004 legislation that would authorize NED’s Center for International Media Assistance.
Following opening remarks, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Dana Priest moderated the expert panel, including Internews President and CEO Jeanne Bourgault, Indiana University Professor Paul Helmke, CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon, and Mark Helmke Postdoctoral Scholar Elizabeth Stein.
Echoing Representative Schiff’s opening remarks that free media was “never more important than today, and probably never more under assault than today,” Simon swiftly tackled a litany of concerns, foreseeing that this year the CPJ annual census of imprisoned journalists will reach its highest numbers yet. What’s more, agreed Simon and Bourgault, there are signs of growing skepticism toward a previously foundational assumption: the value of a free and independent press.
Still, media and media development practitioners continue to innovate and work through many of the increasing obstacles, as Bourgault highlighted several Internews projects around the world – just a few of many proactive and thriving examples. Growing concerns such as “media capture,” however, the focus of Stein’s work through CIMA and Indiana University, become all the more pressing with the double threat of the media market collapse and the resurgence of illiberal and authoritarian governments around the world.
In facing these global challenges, “front door” issues continue to take priority in daily lives over “front page” issues, making local media a much-needed, and often wanting, part of the equation. Helmke, brother of the late Mark Helmke and former mayor of Fort Wayne, Indiana, rounded out the panel, highlighting the importance of tackling media’s global challenges at every level, perhaps most importantly so at the local.
“Being able to honor Mark with the creation of this new joint initiative by NED and Indiana University is a source of profound satisfaction to everyone who knew and loved him,” reflected NED President Carl Gershman, “and we remember him by carrying forward the work that he believed in so deeply.” As made clear throughout the discussion, that work has never been more important than it is today.
Watch the full recording of the event here.