Building capacity to enhance freedom of expression, pluralism and diversity in media across the globe


As part of NIRAS’s facilitation of a Sida-funded International Training Programme, 25 participants from Eastern Europe gathered inspiration on media governance from Nordic media institutions and practices

November 24, 2021

The Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) launched its International Training Programmes (ITPs) in the 1980s. The programme has evolved over the years, but the concept remains the same: bringing different people together on themes where Sweden has something extra to offer, e.g. water and sanitation; gender, peace and security; media governance; and environmental assessments. NIRAS has extensive experience within these thematic areas and has managed ITPs since the 1990s.

One of the more recent ITPs NIRAS has been commissioned to organise is Media Development in a Democratic Framework. Together with International Media Support (IMS), FOJO Media Institute/Linnaeus University and Global Reporting Sweden AB, NIRAS has developed a programme to strengthen participants’ and their organisations’ capacities to contribute to functional and up-to-date systems and structures for media self-regulation in coordination with organisational and legal structures in each participating country. In this way, ITP Media aims to promote and contribute to a media environment characterised by freedom of expression, pluralism and diversity. The programme has been running since 2018 in 21 countries across five regions. The most recent training in Sweden gathered 25 participants from Eastern Europe - Armenia, Moldova, and Ukraine - who represent public administration, civil society, academia, and business.

Since 2018, 400


from 21

countries have participated in the ITP 'Media Development in a Democratic Framework'

The participants met publisher, Anna Stål Isaksson (left), and news director, Charlotta Friborg (right), from Swedish public service television company, SVT

“This ITP aims to expose to participants how the media function within a democratic framework. The programme encompasses five phases. One of them – probably the most important – is to bring the participants together, showing them how Swedish and Danish media works, what self-regulation is, and even at the cultural level, what they do and how they do it in different ways. After this visit, our participants start to think about the specific change projects that they will work on in their own countries within this area.” Says Olga Vallee, project manager.

A key element in the programme is action learning, which – according to Joakim Anger, Head of the ITP Programme - is quite a simple concept albeit not that widely used in training programmes. “Action learning is based on the fact that we have people who come to our training and from the beginning, they have an idea for a project or Change Initiative that they will work with. Our training programme is meant to provide them with examples from Sweden, but also ideas from other participants that will offer tools and food for thought on how to go about with the Change Initiative.“

Peter Sommerstain, who is media consultant and responsible for supporting the Stockholm programme agrees: “This type of ITP gives a good foundation for the participants to start the process of implementing some kind of self-regulation in their countries.”

Changing mindsets and providing tools to enable change

The participants spent three weeks during October and November in Sweden and Denmark where they learned about media in a democratic framework on both theoretical and practical levels. The first week took place in Kalmar, Sweden, and introduced participants to media and its link to social media, journalism, human rights, putting this knowledge into a broader context both in terms of institutions and regionally. They also reflected on what will become their Change Initiative.

Change Initiatives

At the start of the programme, each participant, in close cooperation with colleagues and supervisors, identifies a project that can contribute to the achievement of the programme’s objective and necessary long-term change process on a national level. Based on this idea, Change Initiatives evolve as the participants are provided with new knowledge, networks, and experiences during the programme. The participants work together in country teams, supported throughout the programme by a National Facilitator, assisted by international experts (Thematic Mentors), a Programme Director and a Programme Manager, as well as administrative staff.

We base all our training on the reality where our participants are operating - their own challenges that they experience within their organisation, but also how they operate with other organisations. That is the basis for the Change Initiative.

Joakim Anger, Head of the ITP Programme

In the second week, participants were split in two groups, one of which went to Stockholm and the other to Copenhagen. There, they learned about the Swedish and Danish media landscapes, conducted study trips to media authorities and outlets and talked to journalists. 

“It has been a dream for me to participate in this ITP since I was a student eight years ago,” says Ami Chichakyan, who works as a journalist for the Armenian newspaper Aravot. “It was very insightful to be with colleagues from Moldova and Ukraine as their experiences are different, and I find it valuable to understand how your neighbours are working on their issues while comparing this with the Swedish and Danish media sectors.”

The participants visited Expressen, one of the biggest newspapers in Sweden, where they engaged in a dialogue with the publisher about ethics and the overall regulation of media

I came to Sweden with an expectation of obtaining a better understanding of what self-regulation means in terms of media. Moldova, Ukraine, and Armenia face the same problems when it comes to media; and Sweden has solutions to many of these problems.

Anastasia Nani, vice director of the Independent Journalism Center in Moldova

The participants came together for the third week in Kalmar where they reflected on their experiences while working on their country team’s Change Initiatives.

The participants’ thematic mentor, Oleg Khomenok, finds that ITP Media works to change the mindsets of those coming from post-Soviet countries who have a lot of stereotypical ideas about the media’s role. “They are gaining experience form Denmark and Sweden, which shows that there is another world. In addition, participants are given the working tools to change the environment in which the media work in their countries,” he says, adding: “I think NIRAS is a reliable partner together with IMS. They are doing a good job in selecting participants, conducting the training, and helping participants to develop their Change Initiatives, as well as following up with the alumni of ITP.“

This round is the third ITP on Media in a Democratic Framework. Previous groups have facilitated change in different ways. One Ukrainian team created a list of media organisations that work according to professional standards in order to highlight to the media industry, advertisers, and the general public who violate those standards and provide an incentive for  media to adhere to the standards. A group from Moldova encouraged students to sign a code of ethics as a way to familiarise future journalists with professional standards early on in their careers.

We are excited to see how the third group will facilitate change in their home countries’ media sectors by drawing on the inspiration from the two Nordic countries as well as their neighbours.

Read more about the ITP on Media Development in a Democratic Framework here.

Read more about ITPs more generally here.

Read more about NIRAS’s work with ITPs here.

Get in touch

Joakim Anger

Joakim Anger


Stockholm, Sweden

+46 8 588 318 02