Funding Policy and Institutional Independence

All non-governmental organizations grapple with the question of how to maintain institutional independence amid shifting donor interests. This is an especially important issue for IWPR, as we work with the media. Is there an inherent conflict between our mission to “build peace and democracy through free and fair media,” with projects supported, even partially, by government funds?

The key element for IWPR is our approach to program development. IWPR’s plans are guided by both strategy and local needs, not donor demand. Our approach is to identify a target country or issue, research and develop a project proposal, and then circulate that proposal to a range of private and public funders for their support.

In Europe, there is a long tradition of government funding for public broadcasting, without jeopardizing the fundamental concept of editorial independence. As a result, government funding for international media development programs is not perceived as a threat to journalistic integrity.

The situation is different in the United States. While there has been three decades of federal funding for the fiercely independent National Public Radio, the U.S. government also has a long history of funding media, overtly or otherwise, to serve direct goals of U.S. policy.

IWPR is fully transparent about its sources of funding, and maintains a diverse international base of private foundations, individuals and government agencies. This broad base has allowed us to refuse funding for any purpose beyond the development of the critical and independent press essential to any healthy civil society.

All donors – whether governmental, private foundations, or individuals – have their own interests, and it is the task of the organization to assess each project on its merits according to its mission and its values.

For example, we will not partner with the U.S. or any other military or with local projects closely associated with the military. Neither would we accept funding from any source that would demand any kind of editorial oversight into our journalistic product.

That integrity is IWPR’s unique check against politically-driven programming, backed up by trustees and staff drawn from major international media. For more than a decade, the Institute for War and Peace Reporting has built a reputation for independent reporting in countries emerging from conflict or dictatorship. The journalists we have trained often work at great risk to themselves: our role is to enhance and protect their independence.