Overview of RSF’s support activity in 2014

The Assistance Desk at the international secretariat of Reporters Without Borders (RSF) in Paris and its counterpart in RSF’s German section in Berlin are responsible for coordinating the administrative, material and financial support that RSF provides to journalists and media in difficulty.

In 2014, the two desks disbursed 216 assistance grants with a total value of more than €325,000, compared with €163,000 in 2013.

While around 80% of these grants were allocated to individuals, those allocated to support the activities of media outlets or NGOs that defend the media and journalists represented more that 75% of what RSF’s international secretariat spent on assistance.

Helping journalists who are victims of violence or persecution

RSF’s international secretariat allocated around 100 individual support grants (with an average value of €760) in 2014. Intended to cover immediate needs, or medical or legal bills or to help journalists in danger to find a safe refuge, their international distribution reflects the political crises that dominated the various regions of the world in the past year.

-Fleeing chaos

In recent months, many journalists have fled the chaos and violence in Libya and Syria, two of the world’s most dangerous countries for the media. The threat of abduction or death drove 43 professional and citizen-journalists to flee Libya in 2014. More than 300 professional and citizen-journalists have fled abroad since the start of the conflict in Syria, where they are targets of systematic reprisals by government henchmen, armed opposition groups or members of Al-Nusra Front, Islamic State and other extremist militias. In 2014, RSF allocated 27 assistance grants to Syrians and 22 to Libyans with the aim of helping them cope with the trials and tribulations of exile.

-Media victims of CAR’s civil war

The media have not been spared by the civil war that has devastated the Central African Republic. Targeted in turn by the Seleka and Anti-Balaka, many were vandalized and looted. Journalists were threatened, arrested arbitrarily and held incommunicado. Four were killed in the violence although it has not yet been possible to establish whether they were targeted in connection with their journalistic activities. Others had to go into hiding or flee in 2014. RSF allocated nine grants designed to help ensure the safety of CAR journalists who were in danger.

-Azerbaijan, Europe’s biggest prison for journalists

RSF put a great deal of effort into assisting Azerbaijani journalists in 2014. An unprecedented crackdown on independent journalists, bloggers and information activities turned Azerbaijan into Europe’s biggest prison for news providers. The assistance desks of RSF’s international secretariat and German section together allocated 23 grants in 2014 to Azerbaijani journalists who were in exile or in prison, or to their relatives.

The following charts show the breakdown of assistance grants by geographic origin of recipients and the purpose for which they were intended.

1. Breakdown of 2014 grants by geographic origin

2. Breakdown of 2014 grants by purpose

Helping media and local NGOs that defend media and journalists

As well as helping news providers who have been persecuted or threatened, RSF helped journalists who are continuing their activities despite many difficulties. As the following chart (3) shows, three quarters of the assistance funds assigned by RSF’s international secretariat went to media outlets and to NGOs that defend the media and journalists.

3. Breakdown of 2014 assistance funds by purpose

-Supporting journalistic work amid crises

RSF continued the support for emerging Syrian media that it began in 2013. Refusing to be reduced to silence by their flight into exile, many Syrian journalists are getting organized, especially those in Turkey. Despite limited resources, they try to draw attention to the scale of the atrocities taking place in Syria for the past four years and to document the lives of their compatriots and their continuing attempts to make a future in Syria regardless of the violence.

RSF helped eight news outlets that are representative of the new Syrian exile media in 2013 and 2014, and organized four seminars for their reporters and editors in the Turkish city of Gaziantep in 2014, which absorbed 34% of its assistance funding. RSF also provided each of these media outlets with €4,000 in financial support for the purchase of equipment needed to continue operating.

Ukrainian journalists were repeatedly the targets of violence by the security forces in the first few months of 2014, as the authorities cracked down on the Maidan Square protests in Kiev. Responding to the emergency, RSF’s international secretariat and German section worked together to support their Ukrainian partner, the Institute of Mass Information (IMI). Using their respective assistance funds and the results of a February 2014 appeal for donations, they provided IMI with vests with the word “Press” and with protective helmets, goggles and masks that were used by more than 1,000 journalists covering the protests in Kiev. In July 2014, after the protests were over, RSF funded IMI’s acquisition of 37 bulletproof vests and 20 helmets that it now lends to reporters free of charge, especially those covering the conflict in eastern Ukraine. RSF also organized a seminar for 20 journalists on security in wartime.

-Helping media in very authoritarian countries

In July 2014, RSF provided financial support to GreatFire, a Chinese NGO that combats online censorship in China. The aim of the funding was to help GreatFire continue its work of monitoring website blocking in China and circumventing online censorship. Its circumvention methods inspired the “Collateral Freedom” operation that RSF launched on 12 March 2015, World Day Against Cyber-Censorship. RSF also helped Tibet Post International (TPI) to cover its operating costs and employ additional staff. An independent news website based in northern India, TPI covers news developments and human rights violations in Tibet and combats Chinese government censorship there.

RSF helped Vietnamese online journalists and bloggers to acquire the equipment they need to continue providing information despite arbitrary government persecution.

-Capacity building for local NGOs defending media freedom

After signing a cooperation contract with the Libyan Centre for the Defence of Journalists in June 2014, RSF organized two seminars for its staff, one on documenting violations of freedom of information and one on fund-raising and project management. RSF also assisted with a seminar on “Safer Journalists, Better Journalism - Supporting Frontline Libyan Media” that the Institute for War & Peace Reporting organized in Tunis from 22 to 30 September for 25 journalists, most of them from Libya.

RSF organized four digital security seminars in Côte d'Ivoire, Hong Kong, Turkey and Ukraine. The subjects covered included using online social networks and protecting online data and communications. The seminars in Turkey and Ukraine were conducted with the support of RSF’s local partners, Bianet and IMI. In each case, an additional day’s training was given to a member of the local partner’s staff so that they could, in turn, provide the same training to other professional or citizen-journalists.