Dear Friends and Colleagues,
Since the first issue of Gazeta Wyborcza, we have been guided by the motto “there is no freedom without solidarity.” Independent, socially engaged journalism is also impossible without solidarity. Media, which I define as public good, exist to reliably inform their readers about social, cultural, political, and economic layers of our everyday reality. However, the goal of any editorial office should be also to give readers tools to help them build a better world. Media must show solidarity through and through – with their readers, with citizens, and also with their competitors in need, as long as they are determined to fulfil the public mission of journalism.
The Golden Pen Award, which I am proudly accepting today on behalf of the Gazeta Wyborcza Foundation – and on behalf of its beneficiaries, supporters, and friends – proves that “No freedom without solidarity” motto is also close to the hearts of the WAN-IFRA crowd. We are thrilled and humbled by your recognition of our efforts to help media not only to survive, but also to thrive. Thank you.
The deteriorating condition of Polish democracy means that civic engagement is needed now more than ever. This is why, together with the journalists and publishers of Gazeta Wyborcza, we created the Gazeta Wyborcza Foundation – to address the threats independent media, civil society, and democracy in Poland – and beyond – face. Our Foundation is young – only three years old – but with the great support of like-minded people and organisations, we have already managed to mark our impact in the media environment.
We have 7 media-support programs, have managed to award dozens of grants for journalistic investigations in Poland, and co-financed several investigative scoops. We got involved in supporting independent local media, because we believe that in the face of the crisis of democracy and trust in the media, strengthening local publishers is crucial.
What is more, reliable knowledge about the surrounding reality is the basis for civic engagement. So, as part of the fight against disinformation, we joined the Europe Talks initiative – a discussion platform for readers from all over Europe aimed at combating the increasing polarization within our societies. Civil liberties and independent media are under fire almost everywhere, including in countries perceived as symbols of democracy. That is why it is so important to share experiences and inform as broadly as possible about the mechanisms used by illiberal governments to undermine civil society. This is what we do on our English-language website “News from Poland” and in our weekly newsletter addressed to foreign public opinion, to make them aware of how Polish authorities act to dismantle civil rights and freedoms.
Our three years of operation also mean establishing close cooperation with over 20 institutional partners – media, journalism, and freedom of speech organizations – from all over Europe. Thanks to that we were able to organize ourselves quickly to provide emergency aid to Ukrainian media, which found themselves in a dramatic situation because of the Russian invasion.
Just a day later, The Gazeta Wyborcza Foundation, Bonnier News, the Swedish Media Publishers’ Association, Danske Medier, the Finnish Media Federation, News Media Finland, and the Norwegian Media Businesses’ Association – founding mothers and fathers of our Ukrainian Media Fund – were one of the first to take actions. From the beginning of the war, media from the Nordics, followed by outlets and organisations across Europe, and even the world – understood exactly what solidarity meant: the response from them has been huge. Thanks to it we have been paying salaries to over 150 Ukrainian journalists and providing financial support to 50 local Ukrainian editorial offices. We have been delivering trucks filled with technological and protective equipment necessary for those journalists who want to broadcast from the front.
But we are not alone in these actions. From this stage I would like to recognise the efforts of other media organisations which have been joining forces to show Ukraine their solidarity and support: The Fix, Reporters without Borders, IPI, WAN-IFRA, International Media Support, MDIF, JX FUND, Thomson Foundation, European Cultural Foundation, SIDA, INMA, Global Forum for Media Development, to name only a few – I thank you for your solidarity and help.
But even more I applaud our Ukrainian colleagues – journalists, editors and publishers – and Ukrainian organisations assisting them – the Association of Independent Regional Publishers, the National Union of Journalists in Ukraine, the Ukrainian Media Business Association, Lviv Media Forum, Institute of Mass Information – I salute your resilience and bravery. Thanks to all this effort, Ukrainian journalists can continue producing valuable content – in the case of our Fund it translates to 12 million Ukrainian readers being delivered daily news.
But this is just the first step. We must, and we are preparing a recovery plan for Ukrainian media. In it, our Fund plans to start with financing the reconstruction of 10 local media outlets, backbones of regional communities in 5 regions of Ukraine, by putting in motion business and tech solutions tailor made for them in collaboration with peers from local media outlets from Poland, Norway, Finland, Sweden and Denmark. Other countries are welcome to join 🙂
I find the work we have done together so far, and what we plan for 2023-24 unprecedented. This is, I believe, the first time in the history of the media industry that so many media agents, competitors, in a sense, come together to actually save others. I am proud of you, I am proud of us. In view of the enormous scale of the challenges faced by the Ukrainian media and the heroic resistance of the Ukrainian society against Russian aggression, it is difficult to find an initiative that would better fit our credo “there is no freedom without Solidarity”.
Neither of these initiatives would be possible without donors – both institutional and individual, whose donations are a huge expression of trust for us and are a particularly edifying expression of solidarity in the face of the galloping global economic crisis. It is thanks to their generosity that our Foundation remains financially independent and can carry out activities based solely on their quality and social value, without succumbing to any external pressure.
The events of recent months and years have shown with full force the scale of the challenges facing our democracies. The suppression of independent Russian, Belorussian, Turkish, Philippine media, capture of media in Hungary, violence against journalists in Mexico, Nigeria, Guatemala. The time to delude ourselves that these problems will disappear by themselves, has passed forever. And at a time when the world seems to be losing interest in the war, for us, it is the time to plan ahead.
And I dare to say this future can be promising and hopeful, and the source of my hope is you all gathered today in Zaragoza – who proved that “Stand with Ukraine”, stand with independent media in Hungary, Turkey, Poland, Myanmar, Hong-Kong, the Philippines, is much more than just a hashtag on Twitter. I thank you once again for your support, generosity and unity and call for being with us, with any media in need in the years to come.
We often say nowadays: be brave like Ukrainian journalists, so let’s be brave in our decisions not to leave Ukrainian media alone. Let’s not leave any independent media facing oppression alone.