Long-term support turned into quick aid

In 2021, IMS laid the foundation of a comprehensive programme under the New Democracy Fund (NDF) in support of civil society in Ukraine, Belarus, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Moldova. Timing was of the essence; contacts and partners have been important in aiding media workers and documentarists since the start of Russia’s war in Ukraine

Within a matter of days of the Russian invasion, the work of Ukrainian journalists and documentarists changed. Independent journalism was in need before, though. IMS began working in 2021 with the Danish supported consortium New Democracy Fund (NDF) along with Danish Cultural Institute, 3F (United Federation of Workers in Denmark), the Confederation of Danish Industry and the Danish Youth Council.

“IMS was the first organisation to support us with what we really needed, namely flexible funding to cover immediate needs as well as salaries,” explains Mariia Leonova from Ukraine, who works at The Fix and who coordinated immediate help for the media when the war broke out in February 2022.

The backbone of the immediate assistance was the relationships built in 2021 and the support of the NDF under the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. NDF focuses not only on Ukraine, but five other neighbouring countries. Immediately after the invasion, funds and activities were adjusted to the new situation.

Network and safety support

A signature activity in 2021 for IMS was working with local partners to establish the Women Investigative Journalists Network. WIJN is a response to the many challenges that feasibility study showed that women investigative journalists experience in the region when it comes to physical and digital safety, as well as to support the promotion of women’s voices in general.

Through creation of the network, IMS worked within all the themes of the NDF – youth, media, culture, labour market organisation, climate and gender – supporting the production of investigative journalism and building up a database of women experts. Together with partners such as RPDI and Media Initiative Center (MIC), IMS developed gender policy templates, made available in Armenian, Georgian, Romanian, Russian and Ukrainian.

The focus on gender has continued since the war began, including by securing high quality safety equipment in sizes that also fit women.

Bringing documentaries to a global audience

Additionally in 2021, as part of the NDF, IMS worked with the documentary festival CPH:DOX and EAVE (European Audiovisual Entrepreneurs) on a training course for production teams to help them refine existing documentary film concepts. The aims of the programme are to stimulate and qualify inter-regional co-production and connect the Eastern European documentary projects to international markets. The first workshop was held in Kyiv, Ukraine, in October. Seven documentary projects were presented at CPH:DOX in Copenhagen in March 2022 in a separate window made for the international market; all projects and entrepreneurs managed to attract substantial interest in terms of distribution and funding.

The formal and informal network has since led to new connections and production support in order to document war crimes and the state of civil society in the region following Russian’s war in Ukraine.

Combatting misinformation

Another aspect of IMS’ work in the region is to combat misinformation. As part of this effort, IMS established a programme in Moldova focusing on promoting media pluralism and fighting disinformation. The programme is being implemented by IMS and local partners, with activities aiming to improve the legal framework and internet governance to be in compliance with the Council of Europe standards.

“Media in Moldova can act as a watchdog by exposing corruption and help to promote good governance and accountability by providing accurate, balanced and timely information that is of interest and relevance to the public. For this to happen, support for media reform and public interest media will be essential” said Gulnara Akhundova, IMS Head of Global Response Department, when the programme was announced in October, adding how pleased she was to see media reforms being prioritised in Moldova.

When RSF announced the 2021 Press Freedom Index, Moldova climbed up no less than 49 spots; the rest of the countries showed a declining tendency, with Belarus as the most serious case.

This article was published in IMS’ Annual Report 2021