The FoX Grant: Get paid to speak out

Freedom of expression is guaranteed in all European constitutions. But it is under pressure – even in countries that think of themselves as ‘free’. The concentration of media ownership, the increasing surveillance of communication and other factors impede the free flow of information among European citizens. Now a new fund invites applicants to get paid to prove that their stories have been ‘spiked’, censored or suppressed. And they also have a strong chance of winning an international award, since no fewer than nine projects supported by the Journalismfund have been honoured in the past four years.


Journalists all over Europe have experienced forms of obstruction while doing their jobs, seeing their rights to obtain and publish information violated. These forms of obstruction range from threats of violence or imprisonment, through state surveillance, to denial of access to information. Newsrooms have been raided and material confiscated, and journalists have been subjected to smear campaigns and other attacks on their professional credibility. The threats come not just from organised crime, but also from white-collar businesses and from the authorities.


To encourage reporters, writers and artists to speak out and expose these difficulties, now the newly established European Centre for Press and Media Freedom offers a grant of ten thousand euros (€10,000) to teams or individual journalists from any European country.


Dr Lutz Muekke, manager of the Leipzig-based newly established European Centre for Press and Media Freedom, says: “Unfortunately media freedom issues are extremely underreported although the media is going through tremendous changes and there are plenty of important cases and stories. The grant is a opportunity to do in-depth investigations on this important theme.“ Muekke himself is an investigative journalist who grew up in the German Democratic Republic and recently published the results of his research on journalists’ links with the security services in the Cold War


The material that is being censored or withheld can be about any subject. To win a share of the grant you must first set out the real facts of the case or the opinions that are being expressed. Then you must show how the story has been suppressed (the ‘working hypothesis’), and explain how you will prove that this is what happened. In addition you must attach a detailed work plan and a budget for how you will spend the grant (for example, your time spent in researching, travel expenses, buying specialist equipment or software and so on.) Each section in the application has a maximum word count of just 500 words, so you need to write clearly and succinctly. Finally you need to identify a media outlet that will publish or broadcast your Freedom of Expression story, and provide a ‘Letter of Intent’ signed by the editor to show that your investigation will be published ‘subject to normal editorial processes’. Planned publication should be no later than the end of January 2016. A template is provided at the Journalismfund website, so you can just copy and paste it, including your own publication details. All information received during the grant application process will be kept strictly confidential.


Judges from the Journalismfund and the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom will assess the entries, based on their many years of experience. The deadline for completed entries is 11.59pm on September 15th 2015, and winners will be notified by October 10th 2015. Journalismfund, based in Belgium, was created in 2008 to promote and finance investigative journalism in Flanders and beyond. It is one of six partners in the EU-funded European Centre for Press and Media Freedom 2015-16 project which aims to kickstart pan-European initiatives and create a lasting legacy of professional networks, online resources and support systems for journalists under threat across the whole of Europe (not only the EU member states).


Apply for a grant here.


Based on an original article by Rafel Njotea, Journalismfund
by Jane Whyatt


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