Emory Report

February 9, 1998

 Volume 50, No. 20

Carter Center Update:

Carter Center and Duke University address media in Ethiopia

Television and radio are powerful media, reaching audiences worldwide about important and relevant topics. For example, daily market reports on crops and livestock give farmers valuable information. Reports about medical advances can help improve public health. Using such information resources to their fullest potential is a key part of any nation's development and strength.

The Carter Center, together with the Aspen Institute and the De Witt Wallace Center for Communications and Journalism of Duke University, will sponsor a conference at Duke, Feb. 10-11, to explore how one particular country, Ethiopia, can enhance the accuracy and timeliness of its news, specifically regarding issues concerning public health and economic development. Among key development issues on the agenda are the need for better-equipped health care centers, implementing improved farming methods, creating jobs, and developing infrastructure and investment plans as well as government fiscal policies.

Chaired by President Jimmy Carter and funded by the Markle Foundation, "Media and Development in Ethiopia" will bring together 40 economic experts, policy-makers, health care professionals and media representatives from Ethiopia, Uganda, Great Britain, Austria and the United States. Conferees include CNN international correspondent Gary Strieker and William Raspberry, Washington Post columnist and public policy professor at Duke.

Co-chairs Ellen Mickiewicz, director of the Wallace Center and a Carter Center fellow, and Charles Firestone, director of the Program in Communications and Society for the Aspen Institute, will moderate the meeting. "In this project, we will use the successful model established by the Commission on Radio and Television Policy," said Mickiewicz, "which is to bring together policy-makers, scholars and practitioners from various settings to examine an important media policy issue and work together to make recommendations concerning effective policy choices."

The Carter Center's Commission on Radio and Television Policy was founded in 1990 to encourage development of free and responsible media. The commission's first meetings focused on Russia and other states of the former Soviet Union. It has since expanded its work to include Central and Eastern Europe and Africa. The work of the commission is a joint effort of The Carter Center and the Wallace Center, and includes organizing international policy development conferences and offering media fellowships. Its policy publications are available in 14 languages and used by journalists and policy-makers across Eastern and Central Europe, the former Soviet Union, the Middle East and parts of Africa.

Currently some 20 countries belong to the prestigious group. Members include leading television executives and policy-makers from the United States, New Independent States (NIS) of the former Soviet Union and Europe.

Elliott Churchill, special projects coordinator for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Division of International Health, will attend the meeting at Duke. Part of her role will be to present an overview of her position paper, "Media and Public Health Practice in Ethiopia." Churchill said meeting participants should work "to reach agreement about the most effective use of media to enhance public health and economic development in Ethiopia. Bringing our own individual perspectives to the table is the beginning of that process.

"Communicating health information not only elicits action," Churchill continued, "but people receiving the messages can better understand what action is needed and why. They can then make decisions about behaviors and lifestyles affecting their health. This in turn can lead to public support of appropriate and necessary programs, but success is strongly linked to collaborative efforts by elected officials, media representatives and their general publics."

"Ethiopia faces difficult issues in developing media," summarized Mickiewicz. "We hope this conference will be the first in a series of discussions with Ethiopian policy-makers to enhance the prospects for free and responsible media."

Ann Carney is assistant director of public information at The Carter Center.

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