JX Fund awards grants to media in exile

  • July 21, 2022
  • Reporters Without Borders
  • News

Since its founding, the JX Fund has supported over 15 media outlets in exile in over 7 different countries, as well as facilitating the expansion of a media hub in Georgia.

The JX Fund – European Fund for Journalism in Exile was launched in April 2022 in partnership with Reporters Without Borders, the Schöpflin Foundation, and the Rudolf Augstein Foundation, with the aim of providing fast and unbureaucratic support to journalists who have had to flee their homeland, allowing them to resume their work in exile as quickly as possible. In the most recent of the three rounds of funding to date, which took place in mid-June, a total of 7 Russian and Belarusian media outlets were selected for funding, including two prominent investigative journalism projects.

“We won’t give up!”

One of the media outlets to receive support is the Belarusian Investigative Center (BIC), which due to increasing threats, extortion, and the arrest of its employees, relocated to Poland in the summer of 2021. From Poland, BIC continues to report on corruption in Belarus and Russia, publishing in English, Belarusian, and Russian.

BIC has had repeated successes. In the wake of joint research carried out by BIC and the news outlet Delfi Estonia, the EU stopped a scheme that would have allowed the continued export of Belarusian oil to the value of $500 million per year, circumventing sanctions – long after these exports were thought to have been suspended. In another recent report, BIC uncovered how Alexander Lukashenko’s government uses repressive measures to create profitable monopolies for family friends. BIC has been awarded the Belarusian Association of Journalists’ “Free Word” award five times for its work. “Our investigative research reaches hundreds of thousands of people in Belarus, meaning because of us, the population at large learns about the corrupt machinations of Lukashenko’s government,” states BIC founder and editor-in-chief Stanislau Ivashkevich. “Timely and targeted support from funders like the JX Fund not only allows us to continue our activities uninterrupted, but also to continue to raise the bar.”

Belarus ranks 153 out of 180 states on the World Press Freedom Index and currently has 28 media professionals in detention.

“Undesirable,” under threat, and indispensable

Another project that has received support from the JX Fund since the last funding round is IStories, an online platform founded in 2018 by Russian investigative journalist and Pulitzer Prize winner Roman Anin. In response to publishing revelations and stories that were critical of the Russian government, in August 2021, IStories was declared a “foreign agent” by the Russian Ministry of Justice, however, Anin and his colleagues continue to carry out their work. Their research on Putin’s ex-son-in-law, the businessman Kirill Shamalov, was awarded the 2021 European Press Prize.

After refusing to adhere to Russian censorship laws in the wake of the Russian war on Ukraine, IStories was declared an “undesirable organization,” meaning that all their reporters could face prison sentences of at least four years. In 2022, IStories moved its headquarters abroad, to the EU, from where it continues its crucial reporting on Russia’s war in Ukraine and its research into Russia’s corrupt political and economic structures.

As IStories founder and editor-in-chief Roman Anin suggests: “Despite extreme danger, since the beginning of the war IStories has published numerous articles that not only highlight the Russian army’s war crimes in Ukraine, but also identify individual Russian soldiers who participated in these crimes.” He goes on to state that the “results of our work prove how necessary it is to support investigative journalism. We not only inform the Russian public about the truth of the war against Ukraine but also identify and document war crimes, which helps the victims in their quest for justice.”

Russia ranks 155 out of 180 states on the World Press Freedom Index and, since Putin came to power, 37 journalists have been murdered as a direct result of their work.

Promoting diversity – even in exile

In addition to prominent exile media outlets with a wide reach, the JX Fund also supports new outlets and smaller media projects. These include a podcast series focusing on feminism and a series of video interviews with well-known opponents of the war. Of course, the events in Ukraine remain an important topic. By supporting a wide range of formats, channels, and subject matter, the JX Fund promotes the development of a diverse exile media landscape that addresses various target groups in their respective countries of origin.

Still no stable residence permits for journalists in exile

In addition to the difficulty of re-establishing their journalistic structures abroad, for many, the legal questions surrounding EU residence permits remain unresolved. In Germany, the issuing of humanitarian visas in accordance with Section 22 of the residency act is judged on an individual basis for exiled Afghan, Russian, and Belarusian media workers. The JX Fund’s partner, Media in Cooperation and Transition (MiCT), has set up the MiCT Fellowship, which has enabled 45 journalists who are currently in Germany, but whose Schengen visas are about to expire, to continue their work in exile. This program was facilitated and funded by the German Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and Media (BKM) and includes a monthly stipend, as well as offering consultations and networking opportunities. The City of Berlin and in particular the Berlin Immigration Office have provided invaluable support for the program through their constructive approach to processing the claims of Russian and Belarusian media workers seeking asylum.