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GFMD support for media development community throughout COVID-19 crisis

Author: Olga Komarova | 23. April 2020


Multiple useful resources and tools exist that can help journalists and media organisations deal with the pandemic and its impact on their business, safety, and psychological needs. All of these resources are being compiled by GFMD and can be found here. A list of emergency funds to support journalists and media organisations throughout the crisis is available here. As well as this, we have developed an opportunities hub dedicated solely to funding opportunities for journalists media organisations, many of which have been launched in response to COVID-19.

We are working to constantly update this list and GFMD members are invited to share their own resources in this COVID-19 Resources, Advice, Articles, and Reports Google Sheet.

Virtual Town Halls

In order to help build a sense of shared community among our network, learn from one another, and support each other during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, GFMD hosted an inaugural informal, members-only Virtual Town Hall on 25 March 2020 via Zoom. Our Virtual Town Hall focused on how to cope with the current COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on the wider media development sector. The meeting consisted of more than 50 participants who informally discussed topics ranging from the economic sustainability of media during the crisis and best practices for media organisations, to managing remote work and resources on mental health and stress. A full report from that town hall is available here.

Throughout the first town hall, members expressed concern about the impact of the crisis on the mental health of journalists and media professionals. To address this concern, a second town hall was scheduled for April 14th, which concluded with a mental health workshop. This section of the meeting was led by media development consultant Michelle Betz, Dr. Paul Beighley, Medical Director on the Island of Hawaii for the Adult Mental Health Division, and Executive Director of the Ethical Journalism Network, Hannah Storm. During the workshop, the group discussed tips for alleviating stress while transitioning to remote work, advice on dealing with the trauma caused by the pandemic, and recommendations for management to help their employees look after their mental health. A full report from the event will be available on the GFMD website in the coming days.

A third Town Hall was organised on 28 April. The main focus of the meeting was selected in response to the concerns voiced by GFMD members. With the pandemic bringing face-to-face training programmes to a temporary halt, media development organisations were forced to host their training courses online. This brought about new issues as many media trainers do not have prior experience of providing lessons virtually. In recognition of this, the third town hall featured a workshop titled Online Training Techniques and Capacity Building led by media development trainers from around the world who have previous experience of providing online courses and can guide other trainers as they make the virtual transition. Janine Warner (Co-founder & Executive Director, SembraMedia) talked about the specifics of online media development trainings,  and provided examples, tips, and advice on how to adapt. Tsega Belachew (Technical Advisor, IREX) presented tips for digital training and digital tools, and walked the audience through IREX’s Online Collaboration Guide for Facilitators. Hoda Osman (Arab Reporters for Investigative Journalism – ARIJ) spoke about lessons learned from ARIJ’s first online workshop and presented the challenges their organization faced when forced to move the training into an online space. 

The topic of the fourth Town Hall (held on May 19th) was Journalism and News Media Funding and Sustainability. Léonie van Tongeren, Fund Manager from Civitates, provided more details about the requests for proposals for core grants to strengthen public-interest journalism organisations across Europe that Civitates operates. Jodie Ginsberg, Chief Executive Officer of Internews Europe, also discussed their ongoing Rapid Response Fund (RRF) to support local journalism worldwide.

Joint emergency appeal

During the call, the group agreed to publish a joint statement aimed at governments, donors, media organisations, and tech companies in relation to the pandemic and its impact on media/journalism sustainability. We have created a Google doc with an initial draft and set of recommendations here. The statement comes in the form of an urgent appeal to all those in a position to support journalism organisations and independent media during the COVID-19 crisis, especially those who provide professional and essential public-interest reporting. 

Members are invited to add suggestions, comments, and edits to the statement before it is finalised.


We have continued to host regular member-only webinars throughout the COVID-19 crisis. The webinars remain a forum for members to highlight the various projects taking place within the GFMD network and to learn from one another. The series continued with The Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD), who adapted their webinar topic in response to the crisis. On April 2nd, Toby Mendel, Executive Director of CLD and Laura Notess, CLD’s Legal Officer, hosted a webinar titled “Right to Information in the Time of COVID-19′ that talked about what GFMD members organisations can do to safeguard information during COVID-19 crisis. Read the full report from the webinar here.

Moreover, In an effort to expand our language offerings to facilitate active engagement with our members and their communities all over the world, GFMD collaborated with Fondation Hirondelle and the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ) to organise a public French-language webinar titled “COVID-19: Comment Faire Face à L’infodémie?” The webinar was moderated by Cameroonian lawyer, and researcher at the Berkman Klein Center of Harvard University, Kossi Balao, director of the NGO Internet Without Borders and Facebook Oversight Board member, Julie Owono who has been appointed to the supervisory board of Facebook. Julie Owono was assisted by Congolese journalist Cédric Kalonji, consultant, trainer, new media expert, and editorial manager of Fondation Hirondelle’s COVID-19 programs in West and Central Africa.

Survey: GFMD Members’ Capacity to Administer COVID-19 Emergency Grants

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, GFMD designed and launched a survey aiming to gather comprehensive information and more concrete evidence of our members’ capacity to implement grant and sub-granting mechanisms to media organisations. You can read about the results here



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