A landmark project to support independent media in 17 countries bordering the European Union (EU) has been extended, as journalists tackle increasing threats to media freedoms.
The OPEN Media Hub (OMH), which was established as a four-year programme at the end of 2015, will now run for a further 13 months, until early 2021.
Thomson Media leads a consortium of organisations which offers training, mentoring and networking events, funded by the EU.
By the end of 2019, more than 3,000 participants had benefitted from the OMH, 657 of whom received production support. A total of 1,600 stories were produced and 35 days’ worth of content was re-used by broadcasters.
Online training modules had been accessed by 2,643 reporters, and nearly 800 media organisations mentored to help improve content production and sustainability.
The programme has tackled the biggest news stories of our times – including migration.
Balanced reporting across all platforms was encouraged by the Migration Media Awards, sponsored by the OMH and the International Centre for Migration Policy Development.
The competition ran for three years, shining a light on a complex and challenging issue – with some of the coverage from refugees.
One of the 2019 winners was Syrian Daham Alasaad (pictured below), with a film "One Way Ticket: Forced Repatriation for Denmark's Syrian Refugees?"
He captured the emotions of a family of fellow refugees who feared they were going to be sent back to an uncertain fate in Damascus, and then their relief when they were allowed to stay in Denmark.
During the pitching and mentoring process, Daham’s work caught the eye of Loick Berrou, a judge from French broadcaster, France 24.
"The mentoring improved the quality of entries. With a compelling treatment, good storytelling, filming and editing, we were able to use the Denmark film on our international channel and online, along with some of the other entries," says Loick.
An overriding goal was to encourage stories with a human dimension, of sufficient quality for re-use by media across Asia, the Americas and Europe.
An example was "Being 20" – a challenge to journalists to create short-form, innovative films profiling a generation of young people living on the borders of Europe.
A film made by Lakome2, one of Morocco's remaining independent media outlets, told the story of 21-year-old Ikram from Casablanca, who was born without hands.
She explained how overcoming her disability gives meaning to her life. The video was broadcast on Moroccan television, used by France Info TV, translated into Russian by Georgian TOK TV and downloaded for use from the OMH's portal 44 times.
By the end of 2019, 316 "Being 20" videos had been made, with 100 more still in production.
Of many important investigations carried out by journalists supported by the OPEN Media Hub, one by a group of Syrian investigative journalists stands out for its global impact.
The group, Siraj, revealed how women living in shelters in Damascus were being forced to give sexual favours in return for food. "Sex for Aid in the Suburbs" was published in the Lebanese online magazine, Deraj, and translated into several languages to reach a bigger audience.
The story was read by aid workers and the women's plight became the subject of a United Nations inquiry into alleged violations of human rights in Syria.
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Nearly 800 have received mentoring, with 229 in 2019. Ukraine's Novoye Vremeya produces a weekly magazine, news website and talk radio show. Founded in 2014 by a team of prominent journalists following the Ukrainian revolution, it quickly became a trusted voice.
OMH worked with them to help introduce a paywall to increase revenue and, with the newsroom, encouraged them to switch focus from print to digital. The foundation's trainers introduced up-to-date storytelling formats to develop their video strategy, sell new products and increase revenue.
"OPEN Media Hub has delivered an extensive opportunity to learn about vital ways of developing and monetising our media. It is probably the most precious contribution that we could expect in the hyperdynamic industry," says Vitaliy Sych, chief editor of Ukrainian weekly magazine, Novoye Vremya.
Since the OPEN Media Hub began, journalists have found themselves facing greater challenges – from fake news, to "alternative facts", to independent news organisations "captured" by individuals using the media for their own ends.
"Journalists in 11 of the 17 countries served by the programme have been imprisoned, media outlets have closed, and restrictive laws on freedom have been adopted, making it a tough environment," says Dominique Thierry, project leader for the OPEN Media Hub.
This is the theme of our 2019 annual review, a testament to our alumni and competition winners who report fearlessly from some of the world's toughest datelines.