President Biden announces ‘up to $30 million’ in US support for new global fund to bolster free press as ‘bedrock of democracy’









President Biden announced ‘critical seed money’ for International Fund for Public Interest Media in opening remarks at Summit for Democracy. The independent, multilateral fund aims to avert global extinction crisis for public interest journalism.

Washington D.C. –  President Joe Biden today announced the United States would support the newly established independent International Fund for Public Interest Media with up to US$30 million as part of a package of measures to bolster the free press worldwide.

The announcement was made in President Biden’s opening remarks at the virtual Summit for Democracy, being hosted by the United States Government from December 9-10.

President Biden said: “A free and independent media is the bedrock of democracy. It’s how publics stay informed and how governments are held accountable. Around the world, press freedom is under threat so we’re committing critical seed money to launch a new multilateral effort, the International Fund for Public Interest Media, to sustain independent media around the world.”

A White House fact sheet added: “USAID will provide up to $30 million to the International Fund for Public Interest Media, a new multi-donor fund designed to enhance the independence, development, and sustainability of independent media, especially in resource-poor and fragile settings.”

Maria Ressa, co-chair of the International Fund for Public Interest Media, editor of the Rappler news site in the Philippines, and winner of the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize said: “The world’s democracies are in peril, from disinformation and the erosion of truth –  we need new forms of multilateral cooperation to help the free media re-establish facts and truths at the heart of democracies. The International Fund for Public Interest Media can be part of the solution.” 

Mark Thompson, co-chair of the International Fund with Ressa, former CEO of the New York Times Company and former Director General of the BBC, said: “This Summit has recognised the critical role that trustworthy journalism plays in supporting democratic values and institutions.  It also reflects the fact that independent media is in a critical state and its survival will depend on significant funds from democracy-supporting governments and corporate entities.” 

Speaking at a precursor event to the Summit on Wednesday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken described the International Fund as “an innovative new initiative that provides assistance to at-risk independent news outlets.” He added: “The Fund will be administered not by governments but by an inclusive group of independent, well-respected journalists, media and financial experts.”

The International Fund has a target of raising US$100 million within three months of the Summit for its first phase of grant-making in low- and middle-income countries. Currently, just 0.3 per cent of overseas development assistance is allocated to independent media and the free flow of information. The International Fund aims to initially double and ultimately more than treble that figure. It is currently in advanced discussions with at least 15 other governments about securing additional commitments in the coming days and months as well as with private sector and philanthropic sources.

Earlier this year the UN Secretary General urged member states to support the International Fund, describing it as “this vital new endeavour”.



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