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Young People's Media Network in Europe and Central Asia (YPMN)

Organization

UNICEF

Address and contact details

Chris Schuepp, YPMN Co-ordinator
c/o ecmc (European Centre for Media Competence)
Bergstrasse 8 / 11th floor
D-45770 Marl
Germany

Tel: +49 2365 502480
Mobile: +49 176 23107083
Fax: +49 2365 502480
Email: cschuepp@unicef.org

Project partners

UNICEF

Location

Europe

Background

In 1996, the Committee on the Rights of the Child - which monitors progress on the realization of children and young people's rights, and advises on the implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child - held a theme day on children and the media. One of the recommendations was that a working group was set up to explore developing a positive relationship between children and the media.

In late 1998, the Norwegian Government and UNICEF responded to a request from the working group to initiate a process that would identify examples of good practice, forge cooperative links among the many sectors involved and produce resources to help other players to develop this work further.

In November 1999, as part of this response, more than 30 adult and youth participants from the worlds of film, television and radio, government, journalism, child rights advocacy, advertising and academia met in Oslo to identify good practice, explore possibilities for the future, and recommend practical tools for moving ahead.

The Oslo Challenge emerged from this consultation. It was launched on 20 November 1999, the 10th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The full text of the Oslo Challenge can be found in the MAGICbriefing section of this website.

Against this background, UNICEF's Central and Eastern Europe, Commonwealth of Independent States and Baltic States Regional Office invited interested organizations, media and donors - plus young people themselves - to join the Young People's Media Network. The project is designed by, with and for young people in the region to help provide them with much-needed tools and opportunities.

Just as there are hundreds of young people's media projects - mostly working in isolation - under way throughout the region, there are also many NGOs, media organizations and regional or international agencies supporting media efforts by young people. But they, too, tend to work separately, supporting small-scale projects and country-specific initiatives.

The Young People's Media Network is an opportunity to add value to these disparate programmes and projects through regional linkages and exchange. UNICEF is eager to join with established media, regional NGOs, inter-governmental organizations, foundations and aid agencies to form the network of young people who will be tomorrow's journalists, media professionals and opinion-makers.

Aims and objectives

The Young People's Media Network assists, connects and recognizes youth media organizations and young people working in and with the media. The goal is to strengthen the rights, role and voice of children and adolescents in the opinion-making process in Europe and Central Asia through the media.

Some YPMN activities include:

• offering media opportunities to disadvantaged and marginalized youth;
• helping young people become 'connected' by facilitating Internet access and highlighting activities designed to bridge the digital divide;
• attracting resources to facilitate the training of young journalists;
• fostering exchange visits and electronic information sharing between young people working with the media throughout the region;
• offering opportunities for participants in the network to meet and share ideas, and contacts through workshops and other gatherings;
• offering awards for outstanding media products by young people;
• establishing a directory of media internship and employment opportunities and initiatives for and by young people.

Participants

Young people in Europe and Central Asia

Target audience

Children and young people in Europe and Central Asia, but also parents, teachers, opinion-makers and governments.

Wider beneficiaries

Giving young people an opportunity to become an active part of society by granting them access to the media will gradually strengthen civil society and, most importantly, strengthen the role of children and youth throughout the region.

Involvement of children

Direct and active participation of children and young people is the underlying principle of the Young People's Media Network.

Summary of project

This initiative is envisaged as a 'bottom-up' endeavour that truly reflects the needs and interests of those young people who will become active participants in the network. The heart of the network is its members: children and young people from grassroots youth media projects in Western as well as Eastern Europe and Central Asia. There are hundreds of such projects in existence already and they will benefit enormously from the YPMN peer exchanges, training and internship opportunities, equipment donations, media fairs and awards programmes.

Funders

UNICEF

UNICEF covers the cost for the initial phase of the Young People's Media Network. However, in order to transform the YPMN into a functioning partnership initiative, we encourage international donor organizations, governments and foundations to contribute to the YPMN. If you are interested in supporting the initiative, please contact the YPMN coordinator, Chris Schuepp, through the contact info given above.

Strengths of project

The YPMN will play a large role in ensuring that young people participate in the construction of new societies in the 'transition countries' of the Former Soviet Union and on the Balkan Peninsula. It recognizes the tremendous impact that positive, dynamic and professional media can have on society, and supports young people as they exercise their right to access and share information through the media. In Western Europe it will lead to a better understanding among young people of the problems faced by their youth counterparts in transition countries, and it will connect them with young media practitioners from Eastern European countries.

The following quotes from YPMN members give an insight into the obstacles faced by young people wanting to participate in the media in different areas throughout the region:

"Young people's interests are not covered widely in Kyrgyzstan. There are only two or three youth TV programmes on Kyrgyz TV. TV channels are not interested in non-commercial programmes. It would be much better if we have more TV youth programmes, more youth media organizations; because there is no other one, besides our Children's Media Center in Bishkek. It would be very good if youth have more youth newspapers. Maybe YPMN will help us; the participants will share their experiences." Children's Media Center, Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan

"The media in Macedonia are generally focused on political and economical issues in the country. The social and community issues are not covered enough or at all. The youth issues in Macedonia often are seen from educational or criminal perspectives. We need to make bridges of communication between youth of the region, help to overcome the prejudices and taboos, and to create close relations between young people, no matter of the state borders." Antoaneta Ivanova, 23, Macedonia

"Unfortunately, most of the youth media in Russia is entertainment-oriented. In our opinion, journalists (particularly young people) must be motivated to cover serious social issues, and trained how to do it. Teenagers need to be provided with a source of objective information on everyday issues, such as family problems, health care, education, job opportunities or legal advice. The Young People's Media Network gives an opportunity for professional experience exchange."
Irina Kocheleva, 22, Federation of Russia

"We need more youth newspapers, radio and TV programmes made by and for young people. And not only for youth from cities, but for those from rural areas too. The problem is that if in cities this situation is bearable, in villages it is lamentable. We think that to develop school newspapers would be the easiest first step in improving this situation. Our newspaper Young Non-stop we distribute in all regions of the country. But in order to reach everybody, the radio programmes would be extremely necessary." Lulia Sevciuc, 19, Republic of Moldova

Lessons learned

Youth media organizations can make a real impact by taking up youth-related issues and projecting them, via the media, to a larger audience.

Research shows that not enough is being done to help young people actively participate in the shaping and making of media in this region.

Slowly, international donor organizations and governments are beginning to understand the implications of youth participation and the role of young people in the media.

"Young people tend to be marginalized by mainstream media and youth media empowers youth to present a self-determined, alternative media representation.

"This representation has the potential to influence how communities, peers and hopefully policy makers view young people. As youth media makers communicate, investigate and articulate their views they recognize the importance of holding themselves, their communities and people in power accountable for their actions." Anna Lefer, program officer at the Open Society Institute's Youth Initiatives Program (OSI)

The Young People's Media Network will evaluate the progress of this new understanding and we hope to contribute to a wider acceptance of youth media organizations and youth media outlets and strengthen their role in society.

Examples

Troç and Radio Salam in the MAGICbank are just two of our partners in the YPMN initiative. See their descriptions for more information.

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