Public interest media are vital to open, just societies. They provide citizens with reliable news and information, hold the powerful to account and provide a platform for debate. Yet in many parts of the world, public interest media are under threat. The PRIMED project supports the public interest media in Bangladesh, Ethiopia and Sierra Leone. Free Press Unlimited is part of the consortium that implements the project, together with BBC Media Action, Article 19, International Media Support, and Media Development Investment Fund. The project is funded by the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO).

Trusted, inclusive, free and pluralistic media are critical to provide the public with reliable information, and support an effective and inclusive governance. Public interest media play an important part in this.

However, public interest media are subject to intense financial pressure. Globally, business models have been eroded by the shift to digital news platforms, causing a loss of advertising revenues for traditional print and broadcast media. The economic impact of COVID-19 has intensified this pressure. Besides that, public interest media experience pressure from their government through restrictive legislation and regulation, violence against journalists, and a diminishing trust in media.

Building resilience and viability

The implementation phase of the PRIMED project will span over three years. In this period it seeks to build the resilience of public interest media to political and economic pressures. It supports individual media outlets in Bangladesh, Ethiopia and Sierra Leone to generate professional, ethical, and informative content that encorporates gender equality and inclusivity. There is a focus on developing effective and sustainable business models to ensure viability. Part of that is providing training in understanding and engaging with audiences, and giving them a voice.

Impactful support for media freedom

The expected outcome of the PRIMED project is an improved capacity of the participating media outlets to manage their organisations. To create a more coherent and joined up support system, PRIMED will help build locally led coalitions to defend and improve media freedom. Ultimately there will be a steady flow of trusted public interest content that is more freely and widely available in the three selected countries. Within PRIMED, Free Press Unlimited will focus on gender in the media and media viability in Bangladesh. On global level, Free Press Unlimited will concentrate primarily on policy, research and learning around gender and media.

Bangladesh, Ethiopia and Sierra Leone

Bangladesh, Ethiopia and Sierra Leone were selected for PRIMED because of the diversity of their media environments. They represent different market sizes and face a variation of challenges around media restrictions, political pressure and economic conditions. Each country has developed its own targeted approach which will be led by local teams. This will enable PRIMED to generate learnings from the different implementations, and share them with the wider media development community. By sharing these insights PRIMED will contribute to a more impactful and targeted global approach to media support.

Protecting Independent Media for Effective Development