The NFNZ – the Endowment Fund for Independent Journalism supports editors and individuals who are engaged in serious journalism and honor the principles of liberal democracy. It helps spread free, pluralist and socially important information through grants, awards and professional assistance.
The development of the global crisis of the media and the concentration of the ownership of media titles in the hands of people with a great economic and political influence have weakened independent and quality journalism in the Czech Republic.
Therefore, a group of enthusiasts who have a keen interest in professional journalism and objective reporting agreed on the need to create a new model of support for independent media, and created the first endowment fund to support independent journalism in Central Europe – the NFNZ (Endowment Fund for Independent Journalism) in mid-2016.
The Endowment Fund for Independent Journalism has been the watchdog over media ownership concentration since its foundation in 2016. It published several reports and studies on the media capture. It has also developed its own tool, called Rating, which measures trustworthiness and credibility of mainstream news websites and printed media.
Czech local media are in a very difficult financial position. In the past 10 years half of local dailies disappeared, which leaves local citizens with limited access to objective information on local interests. That has negative impact on their perception of wider issues, such as democracy, corruption, the EU, election turn-up etc. Local media often serve as propaganda tool to local politicians who are closely linked to local businessmen. Investigative journalism on regional level is almost non-existent.
Some local websites are reduced to publishing press releases. Advertisers block stories with a negative effect on their market and so will politicians from local authorities when it comes to their positions. Furthermore, the lack of real independent media lock journalists to stay at such “marketing media”, as they don’t have any other choice. According to the Fact Finding Mission conducted in October 2019 by the Federation of European Journalists, local journalists are afraid to report on conflicting issues, as they could be dismissed from their positions.
Public service media in the country are in general well respected and seen as important source of free and impartial information. Especially since the Covid crisis erupted, they have strengthened their position. Czech public service TV has been praised for years as one of the few public service broadcasters in Eastern Europe that has managed to withstand political attacks and pressures. However, as powerful oligarchs are infiltrating the state structures and parliament is in control of nominating members of the public service councils, the fate of Czech TV and its independent journalism are in great jeopardy. Not approving annual reports of the Czech Television by the Czech TV Council is a typical tactic to undermine the status of this institution among the public.
In 2020, one third of the public service council members were replaced. Most of the new members are politically connected to the forces which attempt to undermined the trust of the public and allegedly dismiss the director of Czech TV. Some council members criticize Czech TV for mismanaging public money, having dismissed the Supervisory Board in December 2020, which was seen as an unexpected and highly controversial step.
Attacks on Czech TV by political representatives have intensified in recent years, including Czech president Milos Zeman who often is known for his anti-journalistic rhetoric. The Fact Finding Mission by the European Federation of Journalists, conducted in October 2019, recommended to the Czech Republic to have a review of the legislation regarding the possibility for government members and parliamentarians to own media not only to improve transparency, but also to review the implementation of the law. Politicians running for leading political positions should not be allowed to own media or to be closely linked to them.
The fund focuses on raising funds from donors. In the interest of transparency, it has laid down strict rules for accepting donations: they cannot be anonymous; amounts exceeding CZK 10,000 may be donated only on the basis of a written deed of gift; donations exceeding CZK 250,000 must be approved by the Board, etc. The NFNZ does not accept grants or donations from the state resources and authorities or any administrative authorities of the Czech Republic or European Union.
The NFNZ regularly announces grant calls for media with transparent ownership structures that are not part of any established publishing house and are not financially linked to political groups or special interest groups. Individuals working outside newsrooms can also apply for a grant; public media, however, are excluded from support. Every application for support is reviewed by external evaluators who prepare expert opinions for the Board. Based on the recommendations, the Board may decide to support the project.
Since its establishment, the fund has supported projects worth CZK 32 million.
In recent years, the fund has supported projects of the following editorial teams: Neovlivní, Reportér Magazín, Hlídací pes, České centrum pro investigativní žurnalistiku, A2larm, Deník Referendum, Sinopsis, and more.
In addition to direct financial support, the fund focuses on three main areas – more responsible and better work from the media, professional affiliation of journalists and increasing the number of consumers of high-quality and independent journalism. For this reason, we have created mapamedii.cz, a site that collects information about the Czech media and the quality of their work.
At the beginning of 2019, we established a national branch of the International Press Institute (IPI), a global organization bringing together media executives and leading journalists and commentators to strengthen the professional affiliation of journalists. The first chairman of the Czech National Committee of the International Press Institute (IPI CZ) is a member of the NFNZ board.
We also support and organize academic and professional conferences to provide space for networking and sharing experiences and trends. We keep looking for innovations in information dissemination to increase the number of consumers of high-quality and independent journalism.
Join us in supporting independent journalism through financial gifts to our bank account 2113445291/2700 or via our QR code.
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