IMS’ recommendations for the International Journalism Festival 2024

Join us in Perugia or online for the International Journalism Festival 2024

From 17-21 April, the yearly International Journalism Festival (IJF) will take place in the Italian city of Perugia. The festival will host a myriad of events dealing with everything from AI in newsrooms to decolonising media development and covering climate change.

As always, IMS partners and collaborators are all over both the city and the programme – making sure that local perspectives and challenges are always represented in the global discussions on media, journalism, representation and narratives.

Here, IMS recommends interesting events at this years’ International Journalism Festival:

Saturday April 20, 11AM

We witnessed the deadliest war on Gaza in the last quarter of 2023. Today, the enclave is in rubbles and the death toll unimaginable. Journalism has been one the deadliest professions, with more journalists killed in Gaza than in any other single conflict in the last 30 years. With the tight siege on the Gaza Strip, a siege that has preceded the war but which was hardened during the Israeli military operations in Gaza, only Palestinian journalists on the ground could carry the every day record of this historic moment to the world. They witnessed, brought images and words that depict to the world the daily loss of their own home.

The panel is an attempt to focus on Palestinians telling their own story about the atrocities as they unfolded and more broadly, what does it mean to cover your own war? How did Palestinian journalists experience the war as it progressed? How did they engage their Palestinian, Arab and international audiences? But also how have Palestinian voices been shadow banned by big tech? How did Palestinian journalists cope with the convoluted roles they have been given in the midst of this war: journalists, human rights defenders, etc…? What has been the cost of this work for them? What are the current needs for journalists inside Gaza?

Panel: Wafa’ Abdel Rahman, director of IMS partner Filastiniyat, Nadim Nashif, director of IMS partner 7amleh, Youmna ElSayed, Gaza Strip correspondent for Al Jazeera English. Moderated by Lina Attalah, co-founder Mada Masr.

Organised in association with IMS (International Media Support). Read about IMS’ work in Gaza here.

Friday April 19, 10AM

The war in Gaza has been having a shape-shifting effect on global politics, alongside some of its key references, such as human rights, international law and realpolitik. Global journalism has been equally affected, with media sites becoming part of the battlefield. Independent Arab media have played an instrumental role in providing Arab audiences with critical coverage and analysis on this war, providing news gathering from the frontlines of the war, complex contexts often absent elsewhere and constantly bridging the gap between details and information and what they mean.

How have these newsrooms affected the global media landscape and the coverage of this war? What learning can global and mainstream media derive from the practices of these newsrooms as they cover a highly politically relevant subject to them, namely Palestine.

Panel: Jean Kassir, managing editor at IMS partner Megaphone, Alia Ibrahim, CEO of IMS partner DARAJ, and Lina Attalah from Mada Masr. Moderated by Michael Irving Jensen, regional director (MENA) IMS (International Media Support).

Organised in association with IMS (International Media Support). Read about IMS’ work in Gaza here

Friday April 19, 4PM

Rising authoritarianism, war, and dwindling media freedoms have forced many independent journalists and media around the world to escape fines, jail, or death by fleeing to other countries. Their tales differ due to different contexts and geographies, and their experiences setting up in host countries successfully are varied. A grim reality is that many more are likely to follow suit, with escalating legal threats against journalists, a spike in online harassment and cyberattacks and declining public trust in media in an overloaded information system. So how can journalists anticipate and prepare for exile? And once abroad, how can they set up successfully? What is the role of donors, international communities, and host countries in this?

Drawing on the first-hand experiences of Russian and Nigerian journalists in exile, as well as exiled media from other contexts, this panel will explore the common host of indicators that sound the alarm bell for fleeing: from the number, type and cadence of legal attacks, upticks in the nature of online harassment, physical threats.

Panel: Aida al-Kaisy from Iraqi IMS partner Jummar, Meera Selva (Internews Europe), ‘Fisayo Soyombo (Foundation for Investigative Journalism & Lola Tagaeva (Verstka). Moderated by Heba Kandil.

Learn more about Iraqi media outlet Jummar here.

Saturday April 20, 4PM

The panel will focus on the challenges of protecting free speech when one’s country is at war. Two years into the Russian war, the state of free speech in Ukraine has worsened. As noted by a local watchdog recording the violations of media freedoms, in 2023 journalists working in Ukraine suffered from violations by Ukrainian actors as often as by the Russian military – a drastic change from 2022, when Russian attacks were the bigger danger to journalists. Limited accountability of authorities, extremities of martial law, self-censorship, attacks for unfavorable coverage – altogether they constitute a tremendous threat to local journalism, in addition to the actual hostilities.

Panelists will provide examples from their experiences: compromises they’ve made or rejected, threats they’ve faced, and how they defend journalistic independence in the time of war and state censorship.

Panel: Olga Rudenko (Kyiv Independent), Sevgil Musaeva (Ukrayinska Pravda) and Natalie Sedletska (Schemes)

Learn more about IMS’ work in Ukraine here.

Thursday April 18, 4PM

The death toll of Palestinian journalists continues to grow as the conditions of those working on the ground continue to deteriorate. The violence on the ground has refocused attention on the importance of the independent media sector in Palestine; not only the conditions it operates under today but conditions of work prior to 7 October and what to consider are future priorities for this critical and beleaguered sector.

Panel: Nadim Nashif director of IMS partner 7amleh, Muamar Orabi (Wattan Media Network) and Shuruq As’ad (Palestinian Journalist Syndicate). Moderated by Fatemah Farag. Moderated by Rawan Damen, director-general of IMS partner Arab Reporters for Investigative Journalism (ARIJ).

Saturday April 20, 4PM

In this panel, three leading investigative reporters will share their tools of the trade while working on high-impact investigations across the MENA region — which according to RSF remains the most dangerous region for journalists facing oppressive governments or censorship by rebel militias.

Rana Sabbagh and Alia Ibrahim will show how they investigated the overseas assets of Lebanon’s Central Bank Governor Riad Salame whose 30-year tenure ended in July 2023. Working with teams, both media partners collaborated to track offshore trusts Riad Salame and his associates used to buy properties worth over $130 million in several European countries. As a result, Salame has been sanctioned by the USA, Canada and the UK and is facing two international arrest warrants.

In the second investigation, Sabbagh worked with Rasha Qandeel to produce a 55-minute documentary linking Captagon trafficking across the region and beyond to top Syrian officials. This required embedding with the all-male Jordanian army in high-risk zones overlooking the no-man’s land between Jordan and Syria where smugglers come across and inspecting army facilities in Lebanon’s Beqaa Valley, as well as interviewing dangerous smugglers and drug addicts benefitting from a free rehab service in Amman.

Mohammad Bassiki, founder and chief editor of the Syrian network for accountability journalism (SIRAJ), will talk about collaborative investigations on Syria to enhance transparency, create accountability and strengthen laws in times of civil war and political uncertainty. He will shed light on SIRAJ’s latest investigations with the Guardian and ICIJ.

Panel: Alia Ibrahim, CEO of IMS partner DARAJ, Mohammad Bassiki (SIRAJ), Rana Sabbagh (OCCPR) and Rasha Quandeel (Times for Palestine).

Thursday April 18, 12AM

In Afghanistan, where the Taliban’s tightening grip on media freedoms poses unprecedented challenges, Amu TV stands out as a critical source of independent news and entertainment for the Afghan people. Founded by a group of Afghan journalists led by CEO Lotfullah Najafizada, Amu TV has quickly become a prominent exile TV channel, devised in response to the dire need for unbiased reporting and cultural content in Afghanistan.

Lotfullah Najafizada will share insights into the inception of Amu TV against the backdrop of increasing restrictions. He will discuss the operational challenges, the strategies for content delivery amidst censorship, and the impact of these efforts on the Afghan community both within the country and globally. This interview aims to shed light on the resilience of Afghan journalists in preserving media freedom in Afghanistan and the critical role of exile media in offering a platform for uncensored information and hope.

Lotfullah Najafizada will be in conversation with Phil Chetwynd.

Learn more about IMS’ work in Afghanistan here.

Friday April 19, 3PM

How do you manage and support yourself and your newsroom when the demands are ceaseless and the topics emotionally challenging? Our panelists, representing various geographies and operational contexts, will delve into the profound impact of this often unrelenting work and share insights and lessons learned on coping mechanisms for mental health, addressing burnout, and responding to other challenges that arise in the pursuit of investigative journalism.

Panel: Rawan Damen, director-general of IMS partner Arab Reporters for Investigative Journalism (ARIJ), Rajneesh Bhandari (Nepal Investigative Multimedia Journalism Network), Annie Kelly (The Guardian). Moderated by Gavin Rees.

Thursday April 18, 10AM

In the second year of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, international and Ukrainian experts, as well as the entire media community, still perceive the media as a means to inform society about recovery, without realizing that within a year or two viable media will no longer exist and there will be no one to inform society on its real agenda. The damage to the Ukrainian media market from the war is not limited to destruction from missile strikes and occupation. Even in regions far from the frontline, or in thematic niches on a nationwide level, the media sector is at risk of turning into news deserts where all-Ukrainian journalism will be reduced to a continuous joint telethon.

In 2023, the NGO Lviv Media Forum initiated a study to identify and assess the donor market financing Ukrainian media, along with investigating the types of media entities most likely to secure funding from international donors. This research provides constructive and revealing insights into the reasons for such a tendency in the sector. Therefore, the purpose of the panel discussion is to advocate for considering the preservation and restoration of quality, viable Ukrainian media as an integral part of preserving and restoring Ukraine. 

Panel: Olga Myrovych from IMS partner Lviv Media Forum, Lera Lauda (ABO Local Media Development Agency) and Joanna Krawczyk (German Marshall Fund of the United States East). Moderated by Zoya Krasovska.

Learn more about IMS’ work in Ukraine here.

Thursday April 18, 2PM

It’s no secret that there’s a funding and financing crisis for journalism everywhere around the world. Most of the money to support independent media around the world comes from philanthropies, governments and tech companies from a few countries in the Global North. But Official Development Assistance (ODA) particularly tends to be routed through a small number of international intermediaries, with comparatively little reaching domestic, local and regional groups. Most governments – even those forming part of the Media Freedom Coalition, the Partnership for Information and Democracy, the Alliance for Multilateralism, and similar groupings – are providing little or no funding, whether directly or through mechanisms like IFPIM. And with Big Tech donors stepping back from funding journalism as the threat of regulation looms larger, another source of funding is being choked off. With the ‘polycrisis’, Global North philanthropic and government funding is more stretched than ever.

So it’s not surprising that the clamour is growing from media and communities around the world, from the local to the international level, for a greater proportion of this funding to be under their direct control. Whether that’s through local and city-level news funds in the US and UK, investment funds in the Balkans, national funds in South Africa, Taiwan and Brazil, or potential endowments in the Middle East and Southeast Asia, journalism sectors want independent funds, based in or close to where they are, rather than in London, New York, Geneva or Brussels.

The group in this session has direct experience across the world of either researching, or building funds at the local, national or international levels. We’ll give a brief tour d’horizon of the landscape of such funds, including specifically those backed by governments, talk through some of the early lessons, and offer practical advice to those looking to advocate for or establish such a fund.

Panel: Roby Alampay, regional adviser in IMS‘ Asia department, Francesca Bria (Italian Innovation Fund), Maia Fortes (Associacao de Jornalismo Digital), Anya Schriffin (School of International and Public Affairs Columbia University). Moderated by Sameer Padania.

IMS works to strengthen media business viability. Find our Social Media Monetisation Playbook here and our Native Advertising Playbook here.

Thursday April 18, 12AM

Journalism is constantly looking for new ways of storytelling, experimenting with technology. At the same time, artists too are trying to find new ways to attract an audience. And as different narratives are created, misinformation spreads and audiences trust media less; culture steps in, burying those thin lines between truth and reality.

In recent years we have increasingly seen this inspiration in the form of performance journalism and illustrative journalism, but now we also see artists experimenting more and more often with current affairs and putting them on stage. For example, in Poland a gay marriage scene forms part of a theatre play. People come to take part in it. For some it’s the truth, for some it’s just fiction. The line here is open to interpretation.

Through this session we want to explore how different artists and journalists are thinking about the truth, how they create stories, theatre plays, comics, animations. Where inspiration ends, does truth begin or end?

Panel: Serhii Kolesnikov, co-founder of Ukrainian IMS partner ShoTam, Florence Martin-Kessler (Live Magazine), Adam Kuzycz-Berezowski (actor). Moderated by Anna Górnicka (Outriders)