Maria Ressa and Mark Thompson to spearhead global effort to save public interest media









A global initiative to support embattled independent media today announced two renowned media leaders as its founding co-chairs.

The International Fund for Public Interest Media said former BBC Director-General and New York Times CEO Mark Thompson would join Maria Ressa, Filipino journalist and 2018 Time Magazine Person of the Year, to co-chair the Fund’s board from 1 October.

The International Fund is an independent, multilateral initiative dedicated to supporting independent journalism and the provision of trustworthy information around the globe. It aims to nurture and safeguard a sector that in many countries faces a potentially deadly combination of state hostility and economic disruption.

“Fearless reliable journalism from independent media organisations is one of the essential pillars of democracy,” said Mark Thompson, who was Director General of the BBC from 2004 – 2012 and President and CEO of the New York Times Company from 2012 – 2020. “Without it, good governance, the rule of law, human rights and citizen engagement are all in peril, as is the world’s ability to come together to address shared existential issues like climate change and mass migration. I’m delighted to be joining this visionary new effort to bolster courageous, truthful journalism everywhere.”

Maria Ressa, founder of the hard-hitting news site Rappler and winner of the 2021 Unesco Press Freedom Prize said supporting independent media should be a priority for anyone interested in combating mis- and dis-information.

“If you can make people believe your lies, then you can control them,” Ressa said. “That’s what authoritarians are doing and that’s why it’s so critical we have vibrant independent media in every country, to uncover truth and hold power to account.”

The International Fund will complement existing initiatives to support media, channeling new funds from government and private sector donors to outlets producing vital public interest journalism. Grants will be awarded to media in low- and middle-income countries at the regional level, under the guidance of an expert independent board.

Sheetal Vyas, founding Executive Director, said the Fund was now seeking to work with governments, big tech and other companies, development agencies and philanthropists to raise an initial sum of US$100 million to begin its support to media outlets in low- and middle-income countries from 2022.

“Having co-chairs of the stature of Maria and Mark is a testament to the scope and ambition of the Fund, and a sign of the progress we’ve made,” said Vyas. “The International Fund makes supporting independent media simple, effective and most likely to develop the long term strategies that can address the business model collapse.”

The initiative will also work in countries to bring together the key players involved in creating sustainable media ecosystems for the future. It has already received support from the United Nations Secretary General, António Guterres who urged member states, donors and other stakeholders to support “this vital new endeavour”.

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