Ethics & independence

Research and reports about the ethics of donor and foundation-support to journalism/media development and its consequences for the independence of beneficiaries.

This resource page is a work in progress. Please get in touch to let us know what is missing using this form.

For non-academic research, reports and articles on ethics & independence go to

pageEthics & independence


Media Freedom Rapid Response

The access the PDF of the Monitoring Report is available here.

"The current monitoring report for the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) has focused on summarising media freedom violations across EU Member States, candidate countries, and the United Kingdom from January until December 2021. Throughout the reporting period, 626 alerts were documented on Mapping Media Freedom (MapMF), ranging from verbal attacks to legal incidents. 1,063 individuals or media entities in 30 countries were subject to one or more press freedom violations, including the murder of 3 journalists."


African Journalism Studies (Commentary) - MIA MILAN

This article documents how the health desk of one of South Africa’s legacy media outlets, the Mail & Guardian, owes its existence to philanthropy. However, it also highlights how foundation funding ‘has radically changed staff members’ job descriptions from being mere journalists or editors to spending significant time—often up to 30 per cent for reporters and 40 per cent for editors—as data collectors, fundraisers, event organisers, proposal writers, conference moderators, creators of information management systems and donor report writers’. (Humanitarian Journalism)



The study describes how Google has funnelled more than 200 million euro in cash gifts to European media since 2013, while at the same time the company has resisted political efforts in Europe to force it to share advertising revenue with ailing publishing houses. Google’s first fund was created in France in 2013 to appease publishers calling for a “Google tax” on digital advertising. This provided a template for the future, as the study’s analysis of the origins of the Google News Initiative shows.

The study describes how Google’s attention and gifts have transformed the relationship between the Silicon Valley company and German publishing houses. Findings are based on anonymised interviews with 25 German media executives and journalists covering digital media, a data analysis of 645 projects funded by Google’s Digital News Initiative (DNI) in Europe between 2015 and 2019, as well as a survey on the use of Google tools among German media houses.

The research is flanked by an interview with two key figures in Google’s European news division and supported by an in-depth analysis of source material on origins of Google’s journalism initiative.

European Journalism Observatory - ALEXANDER FANTA

Facebook, Twitter, Amazon and Google – many tech companies are involved in journalism. A major force, however, is Google’s News Initiative. But where does Google’s money go? We can reveal that the typical recipient of Google funding is a commercial legacy institution in Western Europe. Meanwhile, non-profit news organisations and public-service media rarely receive funding. The only question is: what is Google trying to achieve with its sponsorship?



This well-cited report, by the American Press Institute, explores the ethical terrain of non-profit journalism in the US by examining the kinds of grants made, the nature of communication between funders and grantees, the existence of journalistic firewalls, and the prevalence of written guidelines. The report is based largely on a surveys of funders, non-profit news organizations and commercial partners. The results show, for example, that over half (52%) of funders surveyed make media grants on issues where they do policy work. The report also includes five essays by individuals from various media and foundation stakeholder groups. (Humanitarian Journalism)


American Journalism Review - CAROL GUENSBURG

This article provides an overview of the benefits and challenges of foundation funding. ‘Done right, the journalism-funder relationship benefits both parties as well as the public they aim to serve. It supplies important news resources, and it satisfies a grantmaker’s mission — maybe even bringing a touch of prestige. Done wrong, the association raises concerns about editorial objectivity and whether it has been compromised by a funder’s agenda’. (Humanitarian Journalism)

Poynter Institute - RAUL RAMIREZ

This short article about the opportunities and challenges of foundation funding ends with an early attempt to offer guidance for journalists on how to negotiate the ethical issues in this area. The suggested practices include, ‘provide unambiguous disclosure’ and ‘build a solid firewall and honour it’.


For academic research into ethics and independence go to

pageEthics & independence

Norwegian Refugee Council


This resource page is a work in progress. Please get in touch to let us know what is missing using this form.

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