IPI-IMS Free Media Pioneer award: 10 trailblazing organisations shortlisted

The International Press Institute (IPI) and IMS announce this year’s shortlist for the Free Media Pioneer award. These are 10 outstanding organisations on five continents that are blazing trails in defence of the public’s right to independent news.

The International Press Institute (IPI) and IMS (International Media Support) are proud to announce this year’s shortlist for the IPI-IMS Free Media Pioneer award. These are 10 outstanding organisations on five continents that are blazing trails in defence of the public’s right to independent news. 

The IPI-IMS Free Media Pioneer award is presented to organisations meeting the demands of the moment through innovative models of journalism, media, or press freedom defence. They are opening up new ways of thinking about the free flow of information to strengthen independent journalism and meet the needs of their communities. The International Press Institute (IPI) established the Free Media Pioneer Award in 1996. It is now given annually in partnership with IMS. 

For the first time, IPI and IMS are announcing a global shortlist for the Free Media Pioneer award to underscore the scope and diversity of media organisations that are transforming news access and quality, especially in restricted or repressive environments. 

The shortlisted organisations, in alphabetical order, are:

One organisation from the shortlist will later be named this year’s Free Media Pioneer award recipient. The award will be presented together with IPI-IMS’ World Press Freedom Hero Award at a special ceremony at the 2023 IPI World Congress in Vienna on May 25. Last year’s Free Media Pioneer award was presented to seven Ukrainian media outlets: ABO, Hromadske, Slidstvo.info, StopFake, The Kyiv Independent, Ukraїner, and Ukrainska Pravda.


Arab Reporters for Investigative Journalism – Jordan/Middle East

The Arab Reporters for Investigative Journalism (ARIJ) is an Amman-based non-profit organisation committed to advancing investigative journalism in the Middle East. Established in early 2005, ARIJ provides support to promote high quality, independent journalism by financing comprehensive journalism projects and providing media coaching. The organisation assists journalists working across various media platforms including print, radio, TV, and online media in nine countries including Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Iraq, Bahrain, Palestine, Yemen, and Tunisia.

In a region where free and independent media constantly face pressure, ARIJ has managed to establish a culture of investigative journalism by promoting, encouraging, and educating individuals on investigative journalism. An ARIJ-produced curriculum in investigative journalism is being taught in 70 colleges and universities across the region. It unites more than 3,500 fellows from the region as well as those living and working in exile.

Article 14 – India

Article 14 takes its name from the article of the Constitution of India which confirms the equality of all people before the law. It strives to uphold this principle through coverage that highlights deficiencies within the legal system and threats to equal rights and justice, as well as tracking trends and patterns and spotlighting successes that can be built upon.

Article 14 provides an example of cross-sector collaboration: it is a joint effort between lawyers, journalists and academics, producing research and investigations on topics linked to the safeguarding of democracy. By making these issues accessible to a wider public through a combination of academic rigour and journalistic storytelling, it has grown a large audience and produced concrete examples of impact.  

“We are honoured and humbled. Such recognition is invaluable because all of us on this shortlist live and work in extraordinary times under difficult circumstances. It makes us more steadfast and determined than ever”, said Article 14’s founder Samar Halarnkar.

El Surtidor – Paraguay

El Surtidor was founded in 2016 to fill a gap in the Latin American media landscape, targeting the under-30 audience with visual journalism. It has a focus on stories that affect young Paraguayans, whose problems the team did not see represented in traditional media. It not only listens to its local audience members but actively collaborates with them to tell these stories, covering topics ranging from climate change to drug use.

El Surtidor has become a model for visual journalism, demonstrating significant growth in reach, impact and revenue and also building a community of graphic designers and illustrators from different countries. Continuous innovation helps it achieve impact, for example through exhibitions in public spaces and experiments in animation and interactive storytelling.

“I am so honoured and deeply humbled by the nomination and the shortlist. It means the world to El Surti’s team. It gives us more strength to continue the work we have been doing for the past seven years in Paraguay, which is a commitment to public service journalism that we hope inspires new generations in our country and the region to be part of the design of their future”, said co-founder and editorial director Jazmín Acuña.

Kloop – Kyrgyzstan

Kloop is both a news website with a focus on accountability journalism and a journalism school. It was established in 2007 and has transformed into one of the most popular news sources in Kyrgyzstan, renowned for its investigative reporting and anti-disinformation work. The organisation has trained journalists from remote areas of the country, bridging the gap between urban and rural regions.

Despite facing increasing pressure from the Kyrgyz government, Kloop resists the rising authoritarianism by revealing corruption and it holds power to account through political and investigative reporting. It provides an example of successful innovation in a challenging environment: its experimentation with AI and ML technologies to support its journalism as well as diversification of revenue streams have led to rapid growth in reach and impact over recent years. Alongside this, the media school gives people the media literacy skills they need to become informed creators and consumers of news, including fact-checking and social media management. 

“Kloop is honoured to be shortlisted for the 2023 IPI-IMS Free Media Pioneer Award. The fact that Kloop is shortlisted and internationally recognized once again proves that all contributors of the publication are committed to the high standards of journalism and have incredible courage to continue to produce poignant stories amid constant pressure on freedom of speech in Kyrgyzstan. We wish all the shortlisted organisations good luck and success in strengthening independent journalism”, said Anna Kapushenko, editor-in-chief of Kloop.

Khabar Lahariya – India

Khabar Lahariya is a feminist, hyper-local watchdog journalism platform founded by an NGO in Delhi in 2002. Its mission is to challenge India’s traditionally upper-caste and male-dominated journalism by bringing rural and urban women from marginalized groups together to report on their own communities. Key topics include corruption linked to public money and welfare; violence against women; and human rights related to gender and caste.

Khabar Lahariya has pivoted from its start as a print newspaper to its current digital form and the team experiments with a range of formats and platforms that have brought their vital reporting and diverse perspectives to local and global audiences. The publication provides an excellent example of equitable journalism, empowering marginalized members of society to make change by telling their own stories.

“We believe that courageous journalism that speaks for the most vulnerable is the bedrock of real social, cultural, economic progress, and we are proud to be bearers of this journalism from rural India. We are honoured to be on the 2023 IPI-IMS Free Media Pioneer Award list with our peers from all around the world who push the envelope with their reporting every single day, and very grateful to the International Press Institute & International Media Support for this recognition”, – The women reporters and editors of Khabar Lahariya

Myanmar Now – Myanmar 

Set-up in 2015 in the run-up to national elections, Myanmar Now is an award-winning independent online news service offering accurate and non-partisan news in both Burmese and English. It covers humanitarian issues, domestic politics and environmental topics, and has shown a commitment to restoring the independent media ecosystem in Myanmar by providing training and mentoring resources to reporters. 

The military coup in 2021 led to the violent oppression of journalists and Myanmar Now was among those ordered to stop publishing. Its team has to brave threats from the regime and overcome logistical obstacles to provide its vital daily news coverage.

“We are extremely proud to have been shortlisted for this prestigious award by the International Press Institute (IPI) and IMS. Despite facing numerous restrictions as an independent media outlet, as well as substantial challenges in carrying out basic reporting activities, we remain committed to providing uncensored, unbiased, and credible reporting that illuminates the truths and complexities of our time”, said editor-in-chief Swe Win.

Netgazeti-Batumelebi – Georgia

Batumelebi is a local news outlet serving the Adjara region in Georgia which expanded in 2009 with the launch of Netgazeti, a national news platform based in Tbilisi. Batumelebi remains focused on local reporting, connecting with its audience by covering community problems and finding solutions.

Netgazeti-Batumelebi has faced attacks, threats, blackmail and detentions, and has kept independent from political and business interests in an extremely polarized landscape where press freedom has steadily declined. It is committed to local communities and public service journalism, as demonstrated through courageous reporting on topics including violations of the rights of Georgian Muslims, violence against women and homophobia.

“Batumelebi & Netgazeti fights to survive as a free and ethical media organisation and pursue development as media freedom erodes and Georgia veers towards authoritarianism amidst Russian hybrid warfare. We use innovative journalism to champion democracy, amplify diverse voices, and hold power accountable. The support of the international media community is crucial to our efforts and to the future of Georgian media. Your recognition of our struggles and achievements gives us hope and inspiration to keep fighting”, said Mzia Amaglobeli, founder of Batumelebi.

Project Multatuli – Indonesia 

Project Multatuli is a collective for public journalism in Indonesia that in its first two years made important strides towards its goal of reporting on the underreported in a region where press freedom is under attack. Their coverage aims to empower marginalized groups by shining a light on issues such as the impact of mining companies on communities and the rights of indigenous people in Indonesia.

The team’s creativity has allowed these sensitive topics to be accessible to the public through various media formats, including written, audiovisual, and even an online game. Project Multatuli’s data-based news stories involve collaborations with other news organisations, research bodies, and civil society groups striving for democracy, human rights, social justice, environmental sustainability, and equal rights for all. The organisation is also a beacon for innovation as the first member-focused media outlet in Indonesia.

Somali Journalists Syndicate – Somalia

The Somali Journalists Syndicate (SJS) is an independent journalism trade union established in May 2019. SJS empowers journalists by defending their rights and monitoring violations against media workers – extraordinarily difficult work in a country where media practitioners regularly face harassment, detention, and violence from state and non-state actors, including terrorist groups. SJS also provides a platform for journalists to connect and network, as well as receive daily updates and build their professional skills.

Somalia is one of the world’s most dangerous places for journalists, and SJS conducts its work at great personal risk. The group has faced severe repression for its work. SJS Secretary General Abdalle Ahmed Mumin has been the target of a government-led harassment campaign since October 2022, when he was arrested after joining with other press freedom organisations to raise concerns about the government’s new anti-terrorism directive. He was later released, re-arrested, and dragged before courts several times over the last few months and remains under a travel ban.

“The IPI-IMS Free Media Pioneer Award is a special recognition for media and journalist groups.  This award not only gives SJS and the entire Somalia journalists community the motivation to continue our vital role in defending press freedom, but it also recognises the important work we are doing for the public interest by uncovering the truth and defending human rights in the face of adversity and threats”, said Abdalle Ahmed Mumin, SJS secretary general.

Zerkalo – Belarus 

Zerkalo emerged as a result of the Lukashenko regime shutting down the country’s most popular media outlet, TUT.BY, and arresting several of its employees. The remaining staff took on the challenge of salvaging the media outlet while staying true to their audience-winning model, and launched Zerkalo. Operating in exile, its journalists have continued to expose political corruption in Belarus.

The environment for independent media in Belarus is extremely hostile and Zerkalo’s team has shown resilience and dedication in providing objective news, even after their work in Belarus was prohibited under the threat of criminal prosecution.