Journalism and accountability

The importance of accountability

Authorities make decisions or implement laws that impact society. That is why society must have ways of holding them accountable for their actions. This keeps things in balance. In developing countries, especially those with non-democratic or authoritarian governments, investigative journalism plays a crucial watchdog role that promotes accountability as a counterbalancing power. Without media, citizens would have neither access to information nor a vehicle through which they can advocate for their concerns. Given their special role, the media can have an enormous impact when partnering with civil society organisations. 

On the other hand, the media must also hold itself accountable. Meaning, that they have to serve the public. Both journalists and the media must be committed to the interests of the population. For this they should be inclusive, and they should know their public. Media have the responsibility to do the most they can to reach and represent their audience in all its diversity, and provide them with accessible, relevant and understandable information. 

Our efforts to support accountability 

Free Press Unlimited believes that independent journalism is a prerequisite for an open and democratic society. That is why we are committed every day to professional, critical and independent journalism. Free Press Unlimited works together with partners to strengthen the position of investigative journalism, in developing countries specifically, in order to contribute to overall social, economic and political development. To hold institutions and power holders accountable, and to be accountable themselves towards society.

Holding power holders accountable

We support independent journalists and media organisations engaged in investigative journalism worldwide. With the Money Trail project we focus on revealing financial wrongdoings. In partnership with Finance Uncovered, Oxfam Novib and, Money Trail also offers grants to (teams of) journalists to investigate illegal, cross border money streams, tax abuses and corruption in Africa, Asia and Europe. In Pakistan journalists often do not have the knowledge or proper equipment to make investigative reports. Free Press Unlimited and Pakistan Press Foundation started a project that educates Pakistani journalists on how to make well-balanced and objective investigative reports. To be able to monitor government and industry, journalists sometimes rely on anonymous sources: people who have sensitive information and are willing to share it with the press. It is important that they can do so safely. For this we have set up a safe online platform: Publeaks.

Journalist at work in Pakistan
Journalists in Pakistan mostly cover daily news, therefore they lack the capacity and experience to make investigative reports. We support investigative journalism in Pakistan. Photo: Digital Rights Foundation

Media and their own accountability

To be able to represent society and its concerns, journalism and media should reflect that society and give room to all its diverse voices. In our theme Equality and inclusion we work specifically on that part. Another important part of this, is the ability of the media to know their audience. We support many audience surveys that give independent media insight into who they write for, and even more important, how they can reflect the concerns of their audience. Our Media Incubator project gave local independent journalism in the Western Balkans the opportunity to reconnect with their community, like Kruševac Grad in Serbia, who conducted online polls on local issues, and organised monthly meetings with their readers in popular cafes. 

Our project Russian Language News Exchange focuses on the responsibility of the media to make information accessible to a large audience. It is a pioneer cross border collaboration of journalists, that makes stories from independent media from 15 Russian speaking Eastern European, Baltic and Central Asian countries available on one platform. The project helps partners to integrate new formats into their work, such as video production, podcast productions, and live events. These formats help them achieve higher content quality and increase audience engagement. 


For more information on this theme, please see our Accountability resource guide.


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