Many people write off the Russian media as nothing but state-controlled obscurantism, banality and propaganda. They are wrong: especially in the print and online media, there are still many smart, dedicated journalists doing first-class work, sometimes at genuine risk to their health, careers and even lives. But in many ways, Russia is one of the luckier places — try doing the same reportage in Iran, Egypt, Uzbekistan, Somalia or Vietnam. Generally speaking, media freedom is in retreat, at a time when arguably we need it all the more, not least as regimes get more used to limiting debate and transparency. To this end, here’s a public service announcement, letting everyone know about the altogether-worthwhile Kickstarter crowdfunding appeal for an excellent new initiative, Press Start. Here’s the announcement:
Do you live in a country where the media are not beholden to political or business interests? Where journalists are free to write they want, without fear of fines, beatings, imprisonment, or worse?
If so, consider yourself one of a privileged few – a mere 14 percent of the world’s population, according to Freedom House.
Today, the vast majority – more than six billion people – live in countries where journalists risk their careers, and sometimes lives, to report on governments, businesses, and other powers, exercising what is a democratic right in other nations.
But there are still those brave enough to do it anyway, despite the threats. They deserve our attention and support – especially as authoritarian states and movements grow bolder in the world and are ever more ready to clamp down on those who would hold them to account.
In response, we have introduced Press Start, the first global crowdfunding platform specifically created to fill that gap. This is a project designed to create a new and revolutionary way to fund independent journalism in emerging democracies and societies that are not free.
And now is the time for transformative initiatives. Without reporters serving as watchdogs, corruption and bad governance will flourish, anger will build among disgruntled and disenfranchised citizens and fragile states will continue to deteriorate, with unforeseen consequences for the rest of the world.