UNESCO Doubles the Amount to be Distributed Under the First Call for the Global Media Defence Fund

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Audrey Azoulay, Director-General, UNESCO
Audrey Azoulay, Director-General, UNESCO

The high number of quality proposals received under the first UNESCO Call seeking partners to be supported by the Global Media Defence Fund (GMDF) has led to the doubling of the grants from the initial half a million dollars to a million USD.

The first Call for Partnerships received 110 proposals from not-for-profit organizations from all regions of the world and targeting over 50 countries. Among the 44 preselected proposals, 17 are situated in Africa and a majority from the Global South. More than half of the preselected proposals (25) are from national/grassroots organizations, while seven of them are from regional entities and a dozen from global specialized NGOs.

It is believed that this responsive programming approach and the high number of eligible, innovative, and quality proposals led to the doubling of the grant.

UNESCO’s Chief of Section for Freedom of Expression and Safety of Journalists, GuilhermeCanela, expressed delight at the level of response as well as the quality of the proposals. He said: “We were impressed by the quantity and quality of proposals received under this first Call for Partnerships, which came from all over the world and from a wide variety of not-for-profit stakeholders, including journalists’ unions, media associations, human rights organizations, rule of law initiatives, and investigative journalism networks.”

”The massive interest for this Call, in particular, and for the Global Media Defence Fund in general, has shown us the huge need that exists on the ground to gain support projects that enhance journalists’ legal protection and their access to legal assistance, as well as support the kind of investigative journalism that contributes to tackling impunity,” Canela added.

The project proposals received under the first Call covered a wide scope of activities to help advance the Outputs of the Global Media Defence Fund. One project tackles the growing phenomenon of “libel tourism”, which is used to bankrupt journalists or media houses under the weight of legal costs in other jurisdictions known for expensive legal costs. Another project supports collaborative investigative journalism to continue and publish the work of journalists facing threats, prison or murder.

Other proposals received during the first call included preselected projects standing out for their originality and innovativeness, ranging from supporting legal clinics, lawyers’ networks and other pro-bono media defence mechanisms within journalists’ associations and newsrooms, to fostering strategic litigation, before regional courts and international fora against laws and judicial practice curtailing media freedom. Some of these projects seek to create legal protection mechanisms specifically aimed at women journalists, freelancers, or press cartoonists. Gender equality has been mainstreamed throughout all preselected applications.

Earlier this year, UNESCO had issued the first Call seeking for partners in promoting media freedom, to be supported under the Global Media Defence Fund, part of the initiative of the governments of the United Kingdom and Canada, within the framework of their Global Campaign for Media Freedom.

The Global Media Defence Fund is a Multi-Partner Trust Fund with the goal of enhancing media protection and improving the access of journalists to specialized legal assistance. Its particular niches are supporting legal defence based on international standards on media freedom, as well as investigative journalism contributing to tackling impunity for crimes against journalists. The implementation approach consists in seeking applications for providing seed funding to external relevant non-profit organizations on innovative activities with a potential to achieve medium-term sustainability.

The Global Media Defence Fund was made possible due to the initial major donations by the United Kingdom and Canada and their respective pledges of £3 million (USD $3,7 million) over five years and of 2 million Canadian Dollars(USD $1,500,000) for the first 2 years. Additional donations have been received from the Czech Republic, Latvia, and Luxemburg.

This Fund synergizes with other activities implemented by UNESCO in the field of freedom of expression, and its action contributes to the implementation of the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity.

To learn more about the projects being supported by the Global Media Defence Fund, you can read interviews made to beneficiaries of the Fund’s first Call for Partnerships.