Statement from IMS Director

Covid-19: Looking for a silver lining

The pandemic is re-awakening people to the vital role that independent media plays in their societies. On a new site, created from home desks in just a few weeks, we showcase some of the high quality public interest journalism currently being produced by IMS partners in response to the crisis and the surge for information

These past weeks have been a stark reminder to all of IMS – and to me personally – on how independent media and journalists play a pivotal role in providing timely and relevant information to people in need of facts and news in crisis times about how to maneuver the coronavirus disease.

If there’s an upside to this pandemic, it may well be that the same crisis that is sorely testing media outlet’s capacity and resources, also underscore the value of information provided by trusted newsrooms.

I see that many of IMS’ media partners around the world currently operate with a renewed sense of purpose.

As Alia Ibrahim, co-founder and CEO of the online news platform Daraj in Lebanon puts it:

“There is a sense of emergency in our team. Everyone seems motivated and are doing the best that they can. When we’re seeing how the audience is reacting to our stories, it’s giving everyone a boost.”

Daraj and other IMS partners in the Middle East, Asia and Africa are showing the world how, in a restrictive media environment, it is the independent public interest media outlets who will show how health services are responding, report on changes in policy and community norms, and – importantly – hold power holders to account.

In Tunisia and The Philippines media play a crucial role in ensuring accountability and filling the information gap caused by inept authorities’ response. In Sri Lanka and Myanmar, factcheckers have dropped everything else to address the proliferation of false information about “miracle cures” and conspiracy theories. ZimFact are linking up with other African-based factcheckers to distribute tasks and ensure as much as possible of the bogus information is corrected.

This collection of media initiatives responding to the coronavirus pandemic will continue to expand. It is my ambition that it will inspire and inform media across continents to learn from each other and from past experiences.


Even as the crisis exacerbates existing financial woes, it could also accelerate new models for sustainable journalism and a newfound appreciation for public interest media outlets from its audiences.

More profound challenges will emerge. We already witness how journalists and editors in Ethiopia, Myanmar and elsewhere have been arrested after reporting flaws in authorities’ response to the coronavirus crisis. News sites are blocked, and restrictive legislation introduced overnight.

It is hard to know how long it will be before normality returns, or what normality will look like. But as a media development organisation working with innovative and independent media partners, we will bring all our firepower to bear and do our part to build on the opportunities and mitigate the challenges emanating from the pandemic.