About

A vibrant, free press that uncovers the truth and holds power to account is essential to our democracies. But in recent years, we’ve seen rising threats to press freedom across the world.

An International Fund for Public Interest Media is called for. The Fund will act as a lever with which to tackle the mounting threats to media freedom and attacks on journalists.
It will support courageous investigative journalism, sustain independent media – especially in low- and middle- income regions – and build innovative business models so that media can work for democracy.

So far, extensive consultation has taken place to evaluate the feasibility  of such a fund, carried out by BBC Media Action. It explored how the Fund would offer a powerful, multi-faceted response to many of the current challenges to media freedom. 

After over two years of consultation and development, the Fund has built critical momentum. It is led by founding Executive Director, Sheetal Vyas. It has operational funding from Luminate, Craig Newmark Philanthropies, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and the National Endowment for Democracy. The Fund now has the runway needed to accelerate its efforts to raise a billion dollars from governments, big tech and other private sector companies, development agencies, philanthropists, and others. It aims to open its call for grant applications in 2022.  The Fund is a sponsored project of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, a 501(c)(3) organisation.

The Fund now has the runway needed to accelerate its efforts to raise a billion dollars. We need international donors to get serious about the public interest media crisis.

Board

Co-chairs
Maria Ressa

Co-chair

Maria Ressa is the co-founder, CEO and President of Rappler, the digital news site in the Philippines known for its hard-hitting investigative journalism.

A journalist in Asia for more than 35 years, she has endured political harassment and arrests, and been forced to post bail ten times to continue her work. Awarding her the Unesco/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize in April 2021, the jury said: “Maria Ressa’s unerring fight for freedom of expression is an example for many journalists around the world. Her case is emblematic of global trends that represent a real threat to press freedom, and therefore to democracy.”

For her work on disinformation and fake news, Ms. Ressa was named Time magazine’s 2018 Person of the Year and has received many other international awards. Before founding Rappler, Ms. Ressa focused on investigating terrorism in Southeast Asia, running CNN’s Manila bureau for nearly a decade, followed by the Jakarta bureau from 1995 to 2005. She wrote “Seeds of Terror: An Eyewitness Account of Al Qaeda’s Newest Center of Operations in Southeast Asia,” published in 2003; and “From Bin Laden to Facebook: 10 Days of Abduction, 10 Years of Terrorism,” published in 2013.

Mark Thompson

Co-chair

Mark Thompson is Chairman of Ancestry.com, an advisor to the Supervisory Board of Axel Springer SE and a Trustee of the Royal Shakespeare Company.

He stepped down as President & CEO at The New York Times Company in the summer of 2020 after an eight-year tenure in which the 170-year-old news brand was transformed into a digital powerhouse. Digital subscribers jumped to nearly six million, up from half a million when he joined, while digital revenues topped $450 million at the end of 2019.

Mr. Thompson’s appointment at The New York Times Company followed an eight-year term as Director General of the BBC. He is widely credited with expanding the BBC’s digital reach and overseeing development of the BBC iPlayer.

He joined the BBC from Channel 4 where he was Chief Executive from 2002 to 2004. Before Channel 4 he held a series of senior posts at the BBC including Director of Television. His BBC career began as production trainee. He went on to edit several news programmes including The Nine O’clock News and Panorama before becoming Controller of BBC Two.

His book, “Enough Said: What’s Gone Wrong with the Language of Politics?” was published in the UK and US in September 2016.

Team

This is the team that has been developing the concept and working through the initial phases and bringing in our first funding partners
Sheetal Vyas

Founding Executive Director

Before joining the Fund, Sheetal was Director covering finance, strategy and innovation at Larry Ellison Foundation. Before that, she spent 20 years working for PricewaterhouseCoopers covering international development, strategy consulting and finance. She has worked with clients from governments, international organisations, investors, industry and tech firms to: design and implement challenge funds; develop strategy and partnerships; shape policy and regulatory agendas; advise on transactions; support new business ventures and start-ups; and measure impact. 

She is currently based in the UK but has lived and worked in India and Zimbabwe and has delivered projects across 30 countries. Sheetal is a qualified chartered accountant.

Colin Crowell

US Representative

Colin is the former VP of Global Public Policy, Government and Philanthropy at Twitter. While there, Colin built an award-winning philanthropy programme and engaged with global policymakers and civil society on a range of Internet policy issues. Prior to Twitter, Colin worked in the Obama Administration as Senior Counselor to the Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission. Before that, Colin spent over two decades on Capitol Hill drafting telecommunications and Internet laws on the committee staff of the then U.S. Representative (now Senator) Ed Markey (D-MA).

Colin was Sen. Markey’s top staffer during consideration of numerous foundational laws for the Internet era, including the Telecommunications Act of 1996, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, and the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act.

Khadija Patel

Head of Programmes

Khadija pushes words on street corners. She is the former editor-in-chief of the Mail & Guardian in South Africa, a co-founder of the youth-driven, award-winning digital news startup, The Daily Vox, and a vice chairperson of the Vienna-based International Press Institute (IPI).

As a journalist she has produced work for Sky News, Al Jazeera, The Guardian, Quartz, City Press and the Daily Maverick, among others. She is also a research associate at WISER (Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research at the University of Witwatersrand). She is passionate about the protection and enhancement of global media as a public good.

James Deane

Consultant to Luminate

James was instrumental in conceiving and developing the feasibility of an International Fund for Public Interest Media. He has spent over 30 years in leadership on media development and communication for development issues. He is the former executive director and founding member of Panos Institute, London. As well as working as a part time consultant to Luminate on the International Fund for Public Interest Media, James is also Head of Policy at BBC Media Action, the BBC’s international media support charity. He is a writer, commissioner and editor of numerous books, briefings, articles and blogs on the role of media and communication in democracy and development.

He is also an organiser of numerous conferences on the issue. James has provided strategic advice to most bilateral and multilateral development organisations, as well as numerous foundations and NGOs on media development and communication for development. He is the Chair of Global Voices and a steering committee member of Global Forum for Media Development.

Pierrick Judéaux

Senior Programme Manager and EU representative

Pierrick spent the first years of his career in the Strategy Unit of Europe’s largest broadcasting group, RTL Group, and advising various media and telecommunications companies in Europe, before embracing an international development career.

In the past 10 years, Pierrick has been a senior advisor to multiple Heads of State across Africa, Asia and Eastern Europe on economic and democratic development. He has led large-scale international development initiatives such as the USAID-funded Power Africa Senior Advisory Group and was an Associate Director of Policy at the Open Society Foundations.

Nishant Lalwani

Managing Director, Luminate

Nishant leads Luminate’s global strategy for funding independent media and the organisation’s work in narrative change across all its impact areas. He also oversees Luminate’s strategy, learning and impact, and partner support teams. Prior to joining Luminate, Nishant co-founded the non-profit Global Innovation Fund (GIF).

Nishant was also on the founding team of the Monitor Inclusive Markets (MIM) group in India, which sought to drive scale among market-based solutions to poverty. He previously worked at the UN Development Programme in Zambia, developing new financing products for supply chains that engaged small businesses.

Special thanks

We're grateful for the guidance and input of the following
Journalists
Alan Soon

Co-Founder and CEO, Splice Media

Dele Olojede

Pulitzer Prize winner and former Foreign Editor, Newsday, Nigeria

Maria Ressa

CEO, Rappler, Philippines

Media development organisations
Christophe Deloire

CEO, Reporters Without Borders

Camille Grenier

Information and Democracy Forum

Mira Milosevic

Director, Global Forum for Media Development

Mark Nelson

Senior Director, Center for International Media Assistance (CIMA)

Guy Berger

Director, Division for Freedom of Expression, UNESCO

Sarabeth Berman

CEO, American Journalism Project

Funders
Mohamed Nanabhay

Deputy CEO, Media Development Investment Fund, South Africa

Kathy Im and Lauren Pabst

Journalism & Media John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

Helena Bjuremalm

Senior Adviser, Civil Society Support, Sida

Madhav Chinnappa

Director of News Ecosystem Development, Google News Initiative

Academia
Ethan Zuckerman

Director, Center for Civic Media, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Rasmus Kleis Nielsen

Director, Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, University of Oxford

Ying Chan

Founding Director and Professor, Journalism, University of Hong Kong

Founders & funders

Stay up to date with important developments of the Fund, our news, articles, events and reports. We’ll also link to relevant content from our partners and other players in the space.