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April 22, 2010 - Updated on January 25, 2016

Overview of Reporters Without Borders financial aid to journalists and media in danger in 2009


Reporters Without Borders approved 134 assistance grants in 2009 under its mandate to help journalists and media in danger. The grants, with a total value of just over 110,000 euros, enabled journalists and their families to cope with difficulties linked to their work. They were sent to the five regions of the world covered by our organisation: Maghreb and Middle East, Asia, Africa, Europe and ex-USSR, and Americas. 1. Distribution of grants by region Eighty-four per cent of the 134 grants approved in 2009 went to journalists and media facing an immediate danger in the Maghreb and Middle East, Asia and Africa. The breakdown of this 84 per cent was 37 per cent to the Maghreb and Middle East, 26 per cent to Africa and 21 per cent to Asia. The high percentage going to the Maghreb and Middle East was the result of a Reporters Without Borders campaign of support of Iranian journalists. Facing arrest and prevented from doing their job, more than 50 Iranian journalists have had to flee the country since President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s disputed reelection on 12 June 2009. Since the start of this campaign, the French authorities have responded favourably to requests for emergency visas submitted by our organisation, which undertook in return to be responsible for the travel costs of those who were given visas, assist them with all the administrative steps linked to the asylum requests and award them grants that would enable them to pay for their basic needs. As facilities for receiving asylum-seekers in the Paris area were saturated, Reporters Without Borders also took charge of finding accommodation for 14 journalists and their families (21 people in all). 2. Grant recipients Journalists who had sought refuge abroad and journalists under threat in their own country received more than 100 assistance grants in 2009. The next biggest category of recipient was imprisoned journalists, who – through their families – received 10 per cent of the grants, following by independent media, hospitalised journalists and their families. Reporters Without Borders also approved a few grants to press freedom organisations. 3. Purpose of grants The purpose of the 134 grants approved in 2009 was to meet such needs as support for media, protection of journalists, assistance for refugee journalists, assistance with payment of medical or legal fees, support for families and compensation for lost income. a. Assisting refugee journalists The purpose of almost a third of the approved grants, 31 per cent, was to assist refugee journalists. It consisted above all of money sent to journalists after they had fled their country, and its purpose was to help them pay for essential needs. For example, 700 euros was sent to an Iranian journalist to enable him to get away from a place where he was in danger. Iranian intelligence agents had contacted members of his family, told them his exact address in the country to which he had fled, and threatened to bring him back to Iran by force. A rapid response by Reporters Without Borders allowed him to move out and find a place where he would be safe. b. Protecting journalists and media in danger Of the 134 grants, 22 per cent was to help protect media and journalists in danger. In July 2009, for example, Reporters Without Borders sent 2,000 dollars and 20 bullet-proof vests to 15 journalists and employees of some of the leading media in Somali. Without a stable government since 1991, Somalia is the deadliest country in Africa for journalists. Seventeen journalists have been gunned down since 2007 and many others continue to be physically attacked, arrested or kidnapped. c. Paying medical or legal fees and supporting the families of journalists in difficulty Around ten grants were to help pay for medical or legal fees. Egyptian blogger Tamer Mabrouk, for example, received a grant after being sentenced to pay 6,000 euros in damages for accusing a company of pollution. In September 2009, Reporters Without Borders helped pay for the travel costs and medical fees of a Gambian journalist who needed hospital treatment aboard. Reporters Without Borders also helped the families of several journalists who were hospitalised or imprisoned by paying them part of the income they would have received if their breadwinner had not been prevented from working. This represented 7 per cent of the total value of the grants approved in 2009. d. Supporting local media in difficulty Under its mandate of support for local media, Reporters Without Borders helped FM Liberté, a Chadian radio station that had to stop broadcasting because a short-circuit badly damaged its transmitter and amplifier in February 2009. Run by a coalition of NGOs and a labour union with the aim of providing general news with an emphasis on human rights, the station had been closed several times in the past by the authorities for “operating illegally” or “deviant behaviour.” By paying for most of the repair costs, Reporters Without Borders enabled it to resume broadcasting quickly.