How Media Professionals Maintain Independent Reporting From Exile

  • May 3, 2024
  • News

According to the 2024 press freedom ranking by Reporters Without Borders (RSF), the press freedom situation has continued to deteriorate significantly in a global comparison. If press freedom is severely restricted in a country, exiled journalists are usually the only ones who are still able to reach the local population with independent information. At the same time, their contacts to sources and journalists on the ground often make them the last people who can provide the global public with information from authoritarian countries. Without exiled media, reporting from these countries would no longer be possible; disinformation, propaganda and censorship would prevail.

However, exiled media professionals usually carry out this important work from a precarious situation: the workload is high, the teams are small and funding is uncertain. Between language courses and adapting to a new environment, they have to apply for funding, write security concepts, develop distribution strategies, circumvent state blockades and repression, and constantly find new ways to reach their audiences, which often no longer want to hear about bad news, war and crisis.

The JX Fund promotes and supports the diverse and innovative exile media landscape structurally and financially, collects and curates knowledge about the needs of exiled media professionals, networks, mediates and regularly conducts studies and surveys on the needs and achievements of exile media professionals. In the past two years, we have examined the exile media scenes from Afghanistan, Belarus and Russia in more detail.


Since the Taliban took power on August 15, 2021, the situation for media professionals in Afghanistan has deteriorated dramatically. Afghanistan currently ranks third to last in the Press Freedom Index by RSF, followed only by Syria and Eritrea. This is particularly remarkable because in 2020 – one year before the Taliban came to power – the country still had a diverse and vibrant media landscape: before the takeover, 543 media companies – from print newspapers to television stations – were active in Afghanistan.

Although the situation of independent Afghan media professionals was already precarious in many respects before the Taliban came to power, it was also very diverse and on the way to professionalization. However, within the first three months after the takeover, 60 percent of Afghan media professionals – and 84 percent of female media professionals – lost their jobs; 231 media outlets were closed. One reason for the closures was the Taliban’s restrictive measures – especially against female journalists – as well as the Afghan media landscape’s high dependence on foreign funding, which was largely halted after the takeover. As a result, many Afghan media professionals have left the country and continue their journalistic work from exile.

While some of the larger, independent Afghan media continue to reach their target audiences in Afghanistan, the majority of Afghan journalists in exile are struggling: In a non-representative survey conducted by the JX Fund in December 2023 with 154 Afghan journalists from 14 different countries, 65% of respondents stated that they are not currently engaged in professional journalism or media activities. Only about 13% of participants said they work for an exiled media outlet, while 34% planned to start an exiled media outlet. 54% stated that they were not involved in any exiled media. Many respondents said they simply lacked the money to work as journalists in exile and even of the few who still work in the media industry, the vast majority are dependent on additional sources of income.


Three and a half years have passed since the violent suppression of the revolution in Belarus in 2020. The intense repression that followed led to the massive expulsion of the remaining independent media professionals from Belarus. But even in exile, the situation for Belarusian media is precarious in many aspects: in addition to the financially strained situation, it is a major challenge to maintain the connection to the local audiences from exile. Websites and social media are largely blocked and citizens in Belarus face penalties for sharing or viewing “extremist content”.

While journalists are imprisoned, websites are blocked and users of independent media are threatened, it is astonishing that Belarusian media in exile still reach an audience in the country at all. But despite all these challenges, independent media from Belarus are still highly valued by their audience: according to a recent study by the JX Fund, the five largest websites recorded over 17 million visits in December 2023. In the same month, the average time spent on the websites of the leading Belarusian media was over 10 minutes. These figures show that the Belarusian population still highly values objective and trustworthy reporting – even though the state spent an estimated 50 million euros on propaganda in 2023.

Despite these enormous successes, independent Belarusian media in exile are currently more threatened than ever. Above all, there is a lack of financial support and international attention. Within a very short space of time, Belarus has largely disappeared from the public eye – even though the suppression of press freedom in the country has never been as extreme as it is at the moment. Belarus is currently ranked 167th out of 180 countries in the recent press freedom ranking by Reporters Without Borders, ten places lower than in the previous year.


Although Russia rose two places in the 2024 RSF Index, it lost almost five points in the overall ranking compared to last year. According to RSF, the rise is only due to the deterioration of other countries. Two years after the start of the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine, more than 90 Russian media outlets have established themselves in exile. According to a study by the JX Fund, Germany has become one of the most important locations for Russian media professionals in exile, alongside Georgia, Latvia and the Netherlands: Around a third of Russian media organizations based in exile work with employees who live in Germany.

The Russian exiled media scene is creative, innovative and constantly evolving. Some exiled media from Russia have found resilient business strategies and monetization opportunities and despite the physical separation from their target groups and the difficult conditions of reporting from exile, Russian exiled editorial offices reach an estimated total of 6 to 9 % of the adult Russian population with their independent media content. In September 2023 alone, independent Russian media in exile recorded around 38 million website visits and almost 165 million views on YouTube.

The continued existence of independent Russian reporting is a great success for the Russian exiled media scene as well as for the global public. However, many lack a long-term financial perspective. In addition, exiled media professionals from Russia continue to struggle with a variety of operational problems – from securing a permanent location for the media company and its employees to dealing with the effects of censorship, blockades and other forms of repression in the country – and beyond its borders – which have a significant impact on the safety of the media professionals themselves as well as on the accessibility of their target audience.


Keeping an exiled medium running requires an entire ecosystem of writers, editors, media managers, IT specialists, fundraisers, and many more. Exiled media outlets often have to operate with little money and constantly adapt to new challenges. In order for exiled media to survive on the long run, it is necessary to expand support and develop systemic solutions, which in turn requires a deeper understanding of media needs and industry trends. To this end, the JX Fund regularly conducts multi-dimensional and continuous studies and surveys on the development and needs of media in exile and makes the results available to a broad public.

The JX Fund – European Fund for Journalism in Exile supports media and journalists who have fled war and crisis regions to quickly and flexibly continue their work in exile. Since its launch in April 2022 it has supported 55 media in exile. More than 1,600 journalists could resume their work in exile. As a joint initiative by Reporters without Borders, Rudolf-Augstein-Foundation and Schoepflin-Foundation it is supported by a broad alliance of media, civil society organizations, and an extensive donor pool.