Protecting the World’s Investigative Journalists

Why We Invested: Reporters Without Borders

Photo credit: Reporters without Borders

By Nishant Lalwani, ‎Director of Investments, Independent Media at Omidyar Network

On Monday, October 16th, Daphne Caruana Galizia, described by Politico as a “one-woman WikiLeaks,” who dedicated her career to fighting corruption and promoting transparency in Malta, was brutally killed when a bomb exploded her car, just minutes after posting what became her final blog.

This high-profile incident is deeply saddening in its own right and is also emblematic of our global press freedom in sharp decline. The 2017 World Press Freedom Index compiled by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) portrays “a world in which attacks on the media have become commonplace and strongmen are on the rise,” and highlights that “violations of the freedom to inform are less and less the prerogative of authoritarian regimes and dictatorships. Once taken for granted, media freedom is proving to be increasingly fragile in democracies as well.”

In these increasingly urgent times for press freedom worldwide, RSF serves a critical role in the global press freedom landscape. This 30-year old Paris-based organization maintains some of the most foundational global infrastructure to protecting reporters investigating the world’s most dangerous stories. RSF manages a network of hundreds of local, in-country correspondents (journalists and free speech activists) who contribute information back to RSF on censorship, violence, and other actions from antagonistic regimes that stand in the way of journalists freely and safely doing their jobs. On the back of this on-the-ground work, RSF continuously runs high-profile grassroots advocacy and public campaigning to bring attention to and move policymakers on the issues surrounding global press freedom.

Moreover, under the new leadership of Christophe Deloire, who deeply understands that the deteriorating state of the world calls for new ways of approaching longstanding problems, RSF is increasingly looking to innovate. For example, it is currently incubating The Freedom Voices Network (FVN), an inspired effort from award-winning journalist and Knight-Wallace fellow Laurent Richard to defend freedom of information, expose threats and attacks against journalists, and ensure citizens get access to independent investigative reporting about their governments. FVN is a deeply cooperative effort that leverages a global network of correspondents (in collaboration with RSF), a global network of news outlets (in collaboration with the ICIJ), a secure digital infrastructure (in collaboration with Freedom of the Press Foundation), and its own independent team of reporters to provide a newsroom for every journalist and ensure stories stay alive, even when the journalists originally pursuing them are threatened, jailed, or killed.

As part of our $100 million commitment to support investigative journalism, and in light of the critical role it plays in both the fundamentals and future of that ecosystem, we are extremely proud to be making a $1 million contribution to Reporters Without Borders as it looks towards a phase of organizational growth in personnel, increased global distribution, enhanced systems and structures, and a new era of innovation and experimentation to support the world’s investigative journalists.

We have been extremely impressed with the ability of this longstanding organization to be nimble and bold in the face of future challenges, and we look forward to working with RSF as it writes the next chapter in its rich history.

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