Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Introducing the Finnish Foundation for Media, Communication and Development (VIKES)

The Finnish Foundation for Media, Communication and Development (known by its Finnish acronym VIKES) is Finland’s leading specialist in freedom of expression internationally. Our mission is to promote freedom of expression and journalistic plurality as the foundations for democracy and development. In other words, VIKES is a development organization that promotes free, critical and quality journalism. In 2014, we supported freedom of expression in 14 different countries through 10 different projects in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

VIKES was established in 2005 on the initiative of the Union of Journalists in Finland, and it brings together the whole Finnish journalistic community. Finnish journalists are particularly well placed to promote freedom of expression, as Finland is a world leader in both freedom of the press and government transparency. For example, Finland has remained at the top of the World Press Freedom Index for five years running.

Yet, the 2015 World Press Freedom Index highlights the worldwide deterioration in freedom of information in 2014. Beset by wars, the growing threat from non-state operatives, violence during demonstrations and the economic crisis, media freedom is in retreat on all five continents. More than ever, journalists are being persecuted, imprisoned and murdered because of their work. Freelance journalists who have to work in unstable areas, together with their local assistants, are particularly at risk. In addition to political and economic pressures, journalistic freedom is undermined by the expansion of public relations and lobbying. And yet the solution for global environmental, economic and human rights problems requires the existence of critical and professional journalism.

Independent, professional media and open communication networks contribute to both civil society and sustainable economic development, and in that way to the eradication of poverty. Furthermore, transparency, openness, and citizens’ right to communication are basic conditions of development. Freedom of expression is a precondition for democracy and human rights.

Subsequently, the Finnish Foundation for Media, Communication and Development (VIKES) will participate in the Media for Development Programme both to provide expert advice and to promote freedom of expression. Through the contacts of VIKES the journalists can also have chance to work together with local journalists in developing countries to understand better the role of media in development.

In 2015, the Media for Development the planned project activities for VIKES include:
•    Providing expert journalism input to the TV-production planning meeting organized by ERR in Estonia in March.       
•    Organizing a training for writing journalists from the new EU member states in Finland in April.
•    Organizing the programme of a joint study-trip for the writing journalists to a developing country in Africa or Asia in September/October.
•    Providing expert policy-maker input to an international roundtable on development financing in Latvia organized by Green Liberty in June.
•    Raising public awareness on freedom of expression and development cooperation through VIKES’ network of journalists and communication channels in Finland.

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