As of December 24th, 2022, it has been exactly ten months since the start of the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine. Within Russia, any critical reporting on the subject is virtually impossible. Following a change in the law on March 4th, anybody found guilty of the crime of disseminating “false information” about the Russian armed forces – be they a Russian citizen or a foreigner – can be sentenced to up to 15 years in prison.
Entire editorial teams found themselves forced to suddenly up sticks and leave[JS1] the country – with the hope that they will be able to continue their journalistic work from abroad, ensuring the Russian population’s continued access to independent information. This is no easy task.
“The challenges for media outlets in exile are complex,” explains JX Fund managing director Penelope Winterhager. “In addition to the difficulty of continuing to carry out journalistic work in exile, media professionals must also get to grips with tricky visa issues or overcome hurdles like opening a bank account.”
Once they have left the country, media outlets and workers essentially have to start again from scratch. While carrying out their everyday journalistic duties, they also need to set up editorial rooms or studios, overcome bureaucratic hurdles, and develop new business models. On top of the challenge of trying to keep in touch with their audiences back home, there is also the issue of the strict censorship within Russia.
This makes it all the more remarkable that many exile media outlets from Russia are today achieving great success. Some are developing their own technical solutions in order to circumvent the information blockade. The new app from Radio Echo (developed by the team from the now-closed independent radio station Echo Moskwy) is for example already widely used in Russia. Nevertheless, challenges remain. Many media professionals still have no stable residency permits and therefore cannot make any reliable long-term plans.
Together with The Fix Media and the Centre for Media Studies of the Stockholm School of Economics in Riga, the JX Fund has now published the study “Rebuilding Russian Media in Exile – Successes, Challenges and the Road Ahead,” which investigates the current state of Russian media in exile, and how the cities of Amsterdam, Berlin, Tbilisi, and Riga have become real magnets for exiled Russian journalists. This extensive study identifies the conditions for successfully (re)building media outlets, analyzes the challenges such outlets face, and sketches out potential guidelines for a transnational program of funding and support.
“In order to continue to provide the best possible support to guide media outlets in exile through the next stage in their rebuilding, transnational and European solutions are required. The dialogue between the various geographical hubs and the individual media outlets must be bolstered,” explains Penelope Winterhager. “Aside from that, any existing knowledge should be documented and disseminated, in order to be better prepared for future crises.”
The JX Fund was jointly founded in April 2022 by Reporters Without Borders (RSF), the Rudolf Augstein Foundation, and the Schöpflin Foundation. It supports media professionals who have fled war zones and crisis regions, providing them with opportunities to quickly and flexibly continue their work in exile. Since its founding, the JX Fund has supported 44 media outlets across 8 countries, and with its partner organizations has implemented numerous associated projects providing both quick-response support and more long-term, structural aid.
The project was supported by funds from the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media (BKM).