Media Freedom

silence kills democracy but a free press talks

The Media Freedom division supports sustainable independent media in emerging and transitional markets, leveraging expertise, knowledge, and networks from within the industry while advocating for the fundamental rights and freedoms that underpin a free and independent press.

WAN-IFRA’s primary mission is to defend press freedom and promote sustainable, financially viable media. Three strategic aims guide our Media Freedom work: Advocacy, Media Development, and Media Sustainability.


  • Inform the general public of the scale, forms and consequences of press freedom violations worldwide and the necessity of a free and independent press for economic, social, political and cultural development.
  • Build a comprehensive advocacy and action plan to address and lift restrictions to press freedom, advancing freedom of expression as a fundamental condition for democracy and pluralism.

Media Development

  • Assist media in emerging markets by providing skills and knowledge transfer, together with hands-on consultancy and training opportunities designed around the WAN-IFRA activity portfolio, tailored to the operational realities within the region.
  • Create examples of successful business models that can be implemented by others operating in similar conditions.
  • Identify and create synergies between media professionals in emerging markets and their counterparts in mature markets.
  • Test new business models for media operating in challenging (politically and financially volatile) markets.

Media Sustainability

  • Facilitate networking and effective cooperation among news publishers at a local and global level, to durably share editorial and business know-how and strategies.
  • Contribute to establishing and strengthening national and regional newspaper associations to create permanency in development strategies.
  • Work closely with international partners to conceive and implement truly coordinated and comprehensive media development programmes in chosen countries, on the basis of new parameters for judging effectiveness, investment costs and benefits, as well as durability.


Truly Global

WAN-IFRA’s work is guided by the conviction, held for more than 70 years, that media freedom is firmly rooted in sustainable, economically independent news businesses. This belief continues to serve as a beacon for all WAN-IFRA Media Freedom programmes, approaches and partnerships.

A cross cutting theme mirroring WAN-IFRA’s organisational priorities is to foster new connections and exchange networks between media partners, while advocating at an industry and structural level for greater protections and rights.

Our partners from emerging or transitional markets are often underrepresented in WAN-IFRA’s broader membership base. WAN-IFRA’s externally funded programmes provide an opportunity to bring partners in underrepresented countries together with WAN-IFRA members to enrich and diversify peer to peer learning and exchanges throughout the global news media industry.


Programmatic approach

Currently WAN-IFRA Media Freedom works with media in 26 countries throughout Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Eurasia, delivering capacity building, micro grants and advocacy support thanks to programme-specific public and private funding.

To achieve our three strategic aims, WAN-IFRA Media Freedom has developed a range of sector-leading programmes and tools to deliver high-quality support and assistance to media partners. Our programmatic approach is broadly divided between four main categories and is scaled according to the scope of available funding and the needs of the local market.

The success of WAN-IFRA’s Media Freedom programmes relies on a data-informed approach and strong relationships with media partners to identify critical needs. Our engagements are multiple and long-term, prioritising a relationship based on mutual trust and respect between media professionals working towards common aims.

Our programme portfolio includes:

  • Creating safer digital and physical spaces for media professionals

WAN-IFRA equips media partners with the tools to protect their journalists from physical and online threats, promoting a culture of safety in newsrooms and media organisations, all with an emphasis on women and other vulnerable groups such as LGBTQIA+ communities.

  • Improving financial health

WAN-IFRA works with media to strengthen their capacity to adapt to rapidly changing business environments and facilitate cooperation and exchange between media managers.

  • Increasing gender equality, diversity and inclusion

WAN-IFRA helps drive the leadership and voices of women and diverse people in the news, as well as within leadership roles. Specific emphasis is given to broader diversity themes including support to, and coverage of, LGBTQIA+ issues and the inclusion of other diversity categories in capacity and awareness raising activities.

  • Building audience trust

WAN-IFRA provides editorial skills training and tools for public interest journalism and media ethics alongside direct support to high quality content with the aim of encouraging positive social impact


Andrew Heslop
Executive Director, Press Freedom

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