AREA OF FOCUS MEDIA FREEDOM

The media is a crucial pillar of any free, fair and informed society. Media outlets are facing unprecedented economic and technological challenges and there is an alarming increase in attacks on journalists around the world.

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AREA OF FOCUS MEDIA
FREEDOM

FOCUS AREAS | MEDIA FREEDOM


An independent and thriving media holds governments and businesses to account and empowers citizens to make better decisions for themselves and their communities.

Societies in which journalists are able to report freely and professionally are safer and more inclusive. Institutions are more transparent and accountable, and power and resources are distributed more justly.

The vital role that journalists play is increasingly under attack around the world. The profession faces unprecedented economic and technological challenges. Rising government control of the news industry, disruption of traditional business models, rapid changes in how people consume news, growing competition from alternative media, proliferation of misinformation and disinformation, and the resulting erosion of public trust in news sources undermine accurate and impartial journalism. At the same time, there has been an alarming increase in attacks on journalists globally.

What we do

We work with journalists, media managers, legal practitioners, policymakers, regulators, technologists, academia and businesses to foster a free and prosperous media ecosystem that can play a vital role in supporting democracy and development.

Our media freedom work combines our unique blend of expertise in the journalism, media development and legal fields, with the aim of:

  • Strengthening local and national journalism
  • Improving media ethics and standards, and combatting misinformation
  • Exploring and shaping the future of the profession

Our Media Freedom work centres on the following pillars:

Media for Democracy and Development

We support local media to produce accurate, impartial and reliable journalism that bolsters government and business accountability and ensures public access to information.

Training and mentoring for journalists

We train reporters around the world, promoting integrity, independence, and freedom from bias in news reporting. The core of our training is focused on:

  • Journalism ethics and standards
  • Mobile journalism
  • Elections reporting
  • Investigative reporting
  • Good governance reporting
  • Anti-corruption reporting
  • Environmental reporting
  • Financial reporting
  • Human rights
  • Data and digital rights
  • Equality, pluralism and social cohesion

CASE STUDYWealth of Nations

Despite receiving large sums of money through foreign aid and remittances, Africa loses huge amounts to illicit financial flows – money that pours out of economies through aggressive tax avoidance, corruption, smuggling, and other means, to the tune of an estimated $30-60 billion annually. This deprives African nations of vital tax revenues that could be spent on social programmes including healthcare, education and basic infrastructure, and of funds that could otherwise be invested in projects to create jobs and drive development.

Reporting on this subject is a major challenge for journalists, as it requires specific knowledge of complex financial agreements and access to carefully hidden information. This makes corruption a largely untold story.

Our Wealth of Nations initiative aims to strengthen and scale up independent media across Africa with the goal of exposing the financial manipulations that stop the continent from flourishing. It brings together journalists and media practitioners from across the continent, to increase their investigative capacity and boost the effectiveness of newsrooms.

An investigative report by a journalist participating in Wealth of Nations revealed how Egypt’s free-trade zone was being used as a tax haven by many companies operating there. The story, which uncovered new data about the tax evasion and ensuing loss of government revenue, was cited and praised by the Ministry of Finance when making the case for reform. Despite stiff opposition from the investment authority, the law was changed.

Wealth of Nations is supported by a grant from Norway’s development agency, Norad.

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Cross-border journalism networks

We connect and support journalists in different countries to exchange perspectives, share best practice and collaborate on investigative stories and other projects.

CASE STUDYPerspektivy

Perspektivy is our professional development programme dedicated to journalists and editors from Russia, Eastern Europe and Central Asia. The initiative helps participants navigate the challenges posed by the changing news environment, with the aim of strengthening expertise and professional standards across the region and building networks of journalists in order to forge stronger local and international cohesion and understanding.

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Defending Media Freedom

We work to create a positive environment for media to operate independently and safely, and to improve the professional and business standards of independent media in countries at risk.

SERVICES

Legal research and guides to promote media freedom

We work with media professionals and law firms to research media laws and regulation, to strengthen the media ecosystem and to guide journalists and media managers seeking to produce free and independent journalism.

We provide a host of resources, including tools, guides and country-level research for lawyers, media professionals and regulators.

CASE STUDYDefence Handbook for Journalists and Bloggers on Freedom of Expression

Freedom of expression and freedom of information are among the most essential human rights. These principles are enshrined in international law, and governments can be held accountable if the voices of journalists are silenced. We connected non-profit organisation Reporters Without Borders with legal firm Paul Hastings, and its international team of 70 lawyers, to develop a handbook of decisions and recommendations made by international and regional bodies and courts, relating to freedom of expression. The handbook allows journalists to work with greater confidence, knowing they are complying with international laws. It is also useful for journalists’ legal representatives, who can lack expertise in international law, by allowing them to quickly access examples of relevant international cases and standards.

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CASE STUDYCritics Are Not Criminals - Comparative Study of Criminal Defamation Laws in the Americas

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), in 2019 alone 250 journalists were imprisoned around the world for reporting on matters of public interest. The vast majority of those were sentenced under anti-state charges or defamation laws, which permit journalists to be prosecuted for the content of their reporting. Governments in the Americas are increasingly using these defamation laws to suppress journalists and crack down on dissent. We connected CPJ with 12 law firms, led by Debevoise & Plimpton, to research the enforcement of criminal defamation laws, uncovering best and worst practices across 33 countries in the Americas. The resulting report revealed that 32 out of the 33 countries surveyed use these laws to continue to silence journalists who are critical of politicians and public officials. This has, in some cases, led to the closure of many independent news outlets. The report has enabled the CPJ to actively advance their legal reform agenda. They have engaged in critical dialogue with governments and intergovernmental stakeholders, including discussions with the President of the Peruvian Congress about a prospective bill to decriminalise defamation.

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CASE STUDYProtecting Whistleblowers in the UK: A New Blueprint

Whistleblowing is a type of freedom of expression in which a person or group exposes illegal, unethical or incorrect information or activity within an organisation. For this reason, whistleblowers often put themselves at risk of backlash, harassment or retaliation. Until recently, despite pressure from civil society and major disclosures such as LuxLeaks and the Panama Papers, the laws protecting whistleblowers across European countries have been limited.

We connected Blueprint for Free Speech – a non-profit dedicated to improving freedom of expression – with global law firm Dechert LLP, to draft a memorandum on the legal process for creating an EU directive that could provide a more comprehensive and universal standard of protection for whistleblowers.

The legal research empowered Blueprint to inform the EU community on this process, as well as the legal arguments to improve transparency.

In April 2019, whistleblowers were, for the first time, given EU-wide protection through landmark legislation passed by the EU Parliament. The legislation shields whistleblowers from retaliation, creates ‘safe channels’ to allow them to report breaches of EU law, and aims to encourage reports of wrongdoing.

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Convening initiatives to share best practice and strengthen the media ecosystem

We regularly bring together media practitioners, media freedom NGOs, lawyers and academics to provide practical collaborative opportunities – including partnerships, alliances, networks and events – to share best practice and develop tangible solutions to strengthen media freedom and the independent media ecosystem generally.

CASE STUDYKurt Schork Awards in International Journalism

Since 2009, we have supported and hosted the Kurt Schork Awards in International Journalism. Named in honour of American journalist Kurt Schork, who was killed in Sierra Leone while on assignment for Reuters in 2000, the three annual awards recognise the courageousness of freelance journalists, local reporters and news fixers who are reporting on conflict, corruption, human rights transgressions and other related issues.

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Advisory support to independent news outlets

We provide bespoke support to media organisations on all aspects of their operations, from editorial standards and operational management to business sustainability, with the aim of strengthening independent media voices in countries where free and independent media is at risk of shrinking.

CASE STUDYTV8 Moldova

Since 2017, we have been supporting TV8 – widely regarded as the only independent media outlet in Moldova – to become financially sustainable, and, as such, a stronger provider of unbiased, high-quality news and information. Having contributed to TV8’s organisational restructuring and capacity-building, we continued to deploy experienced journalists and media managers who have helped the team develop and implement a business plan, and ensure appropriate coverage of elections.

Our newsroom consultancies on editorial policy and business generation helped TV8 improve its programming, increase its audiences across all platforms and diversify its revenue to include commercial activities. As a result, TV8 has strengthened its financial sustainability and its ability to continue to hold power to account, to become one of the country’s most trusted sources of political news.

In December 2018, TV8 received the Special Award ‘Evolution of the Year’ from the Chisinau Press Club at the Press Gala organised by the Independent Journalism Centre.

Our work with TV8 is supported by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) of the UK government.

Strengthening the Future of Journalism

We work with journalists, editors and media executives to ensure they face the opportunities and challenges of a changing media environment from a position of strength and to help them build better and more sustainable journalism for tomorrow.

CASE STUDYThe Digital News Report

Each year, the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism (RISJ), at the University of Oxford, produces the Digital News Report, the world’s largest international comparative study tracking online news access, consumption and engagement around the world. The 2019 report had a particular focus on the willingness of news audiences to pay for online news. It also looked at how news is shared and consumed within social media groups and private messaging apps, populism, perceptions of the news media, news habits among younger news consumers, and the growth of news podcasts.

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Training the next generation of journalists

Since 2018, we have been partnering with the Arab Youth Center to deliver innovative training solutions as part of theYouth Arab Media Leaders Programme, an initiative aimed at educating future media leaders in the MENA region on topics ranging from media literacy to video journalism – all of which are fundamental pillars in the work of sustaining a positive media ecosystem.

We also work with academic institutions to strengthen professional development opportunities for journalists.

What’s coming up?

Building on our solid track record in the media development and legal fields, we will continue to expand our work to advance and defend media freedom.

Currently, we are working towards:

  • The creation of a global coordination network to provide legal assistance, litigation and defence to journalists and media organisations in distress.
  • New courses looking at the legal dangers for journalists.
  • Specialised training for lawyers defending media freedom.
  • A research project assessing the challenges faced by journalists in developing countries.
  • Additional legal support for media freedom NGOs.
  • Additional legal research on matters of freedom of speech.