A recent announcement by the US Embassy in Lithuania for a $500,000 grant entitled “Investigative Journalism Training to Counter Russian Messaging in the Baltics” works against a basic principle of journalism: that media is independent of politics.
The grant implies that its purpose is to counter Russian propaganda. However, while no one in the media likes or accepts propaganda, our mission is not to counter propaganda or to promote any government’s version of the truth. The role of the media is to inform readers so that they themselves can make informed decisions.
We believe the intention of the grant is good but the wording creates an appearance that it will be used in propaganda. In the difficult environment we work in, grant intentions must be unambiguous and free from misinterpretations. We ask the embassy to rename the grant.
If it is not done so, Re:Baltica, 15Min.lt, the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project which represents 22 non-profits, and the Media Center at the Stockholm School of Economics cannot bid on this grant or cooperate with any implementers who might be awarded this grant.
We share you concern about propaganda and we believe independent media is the best way to counter this problem. We represent the media that you are seeking to assist. Help us find a way to participate that will not be a problem for us.
We are forming a standing committee of independent Russian speaking media. We plan to meet in September in Riga to outline the best ways to help the independent media space in Russian speaking countries. We believe we know ourselves best and can give good guidance. These decisions should not be made by development organizations in remote places whose interest and understanding of the sensitive media space is incomplete.
We are dedicated to giving readers more viewpoints and donors should directly ask these leading media what we need – not design programs for us. We are committed to working hard to improve our reader’s lives. Help us make that a reality.