By Michel Broué, President.
The Free Press Fund (FPL) is a non-profit organization whose purpose is “to defend freedom of information, press pluralism and the independence of journalism; to contribute to the protection of the right to know and the freedom to speak in the digital revolution; to promote journalism in the public interest, bearing humanist values, in the service of the common good and equal rights, the rejection of discrimination and the rejection of injustice” (Journal Officiel de la République française, 14 September 2019). Child of the independent press, the FPL was created within the framework of the administrative and financial reorganizations undertaken by Mediapart to “sanctuarise” its own capital. The solution devised by the founders was inspired by that of the British Guardian, using for the FPL the “Endowment Fund” structure recently created in France. It should be noted that the independence that the FPL defends is also exercised with regard to Mediapart: no Mediapart manager can sit on the FPL Board of Directors, and the FPL cannot finance Mediapart either directly or indirectly; whereas, conversely, Mediapart is required to pay part of its profits to the FPL each year.
The setting up of the FPL, its Board of Directors, the recruitment of its Executive Director, as well as the creation of its Strategic Council – a key body for evaluating projects seeking support from the FPL – took place mainly during the period of the global pandemic. It is more often in “distant” than “face-to-face”, to use Covid’s jargon, that we got to know each other, worked, launched the first call for projects, discussed and decided on the selection of the winners. And it is more than encouraging that we have succeeded, not only in doing, I think, a good job, but in creating trust and interest between all of us.
At the end of this first campaign, we decided to financially support three projects out of the twenty-seven applications received: a “local” news newspaper, the Far Ouest media, established in 2017 in New Aquitaine; the Orient XXI media, which since 2013 seeks to highlight information on the Near and Middle East; the Guiti News media, created in 2018 to participate in the change of collective narrative around migration. A new call for projects will be made public in the spring, and we will gradually diversify our support.
To do this, we also need to find resources and sponsors. Tax exemption (two-thirds of donations to the FPL are deductible from income tax) is certainly an argument, but above all we must show the interest, the efficiency, and the singularity of our intervention in favour of the financial and political independence of the press. First of all, the expertise and seriousness of our Strategic Advisory Board is one of the guarantees of this. Moreover, as soon as the health situation allows it, it will also be up to us to make our voice heard and to help organize collective responses to certain worrying current threats to press freedom, from certain dismissals to sometimes dubious financial operations, from obstacles to the work of journalists during demonstrations to certain bills currently under discussion.
In this period of great uncertainty of all kinds, of exacerbated mistrust – sometimes justified, sometimes manipulated – the need for information that is independent of the authorities of all kinds, and of very high quality, is vital for democracy. Information is a public good and must remain so. We are happy to try to play our part in the development and defence of information.