PRESS START: Crowdfunding Stories that Matter

Crowdfunding platform Press Start was launched this week, aiming to revolutionize the way the best and bravest reporters are funded in the growing list of countries where the press cannot report freely.

More than six billion people – most of the world’s population – live in countries where journalists remain muzzled. Internet freedom is likewise in decline, and independent publishing faces increasingly sophisticated forms of control and censorship.

Piling on, crippling political and financial pressures mean independent media struggle to produce quality journalism, to pay their reporters – no matter how talented and courageous – or even to survive. That’s where Press Start comes in.

Press Start is the first global crowdfunding platform to connect journalists seeking to report the stories important to their communities with people around the world who understand the importance of a free press to democracy. These journalists put their careers and lives at risk to hold the powerful to account, and they need the public’s attention and support.

"Through the journalism training programs we’ve run over the past 20 years, we hear the same thing over and over again," Press Start Founder Jeremy Druker said. “That even the smartest, bravest reporters, with all the skills in the world, still can’t find the funding to do the journalism they know is needed – funding that is often hard to come by in poor, restrictive societies.”

With support from Press Start, for instance, Douce Namwezi N’ibamba can investigate where, exactly, millions of dollars of donor funding for clean-water projects have gone while people in a conflict-ridden eastern province of Congo still have to walk miles for potable water. Or Habib Battah can continue his investigations into the destruction of Lebanon’s irreplaceable ancient sites by well-connected commercial developers.

For Press Start launch, specific projects by five outstanding journalists from Armenia, Congo, Honduras, Lebanon, and Macedonia are highlighted. Each month we plan to focus on a new group of reporters, and eventually we will raise funds for series of articles, spread over several months. In that way, we can offer some stability and a lifeline for journalists in a precarious position.

"Press Start allows people from across the world to make a real impact by enabling local journalists to report on stories that are important to their communities and that would otherwise go untold,” said Gary Regenstreif, chairman of Press Start’s advisory board and former editor at large at Reuters. “Whether donors are in New York or Stockholm, Frankfurt or Tokyo, they can derive satisfaction from the fact that they are helping to inform those who may be in the dark and, in the process, strengthening democracies."

Press Start is an initiative of Transitions (TOL), one of Central Europe’s leading journalism trainers and a Czech-registered nonprofit organization.

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IREX Europe is supporting this process by identifying journalists in target countries/regions to feature on the Press Start platform. IREX Europe has an extensive experience in assisting journalists who may come under attack, be harassed, unfairly prosecuted or fined because of their work. Emergency support can for example be provided to cover legal, security, or medical costs, thereby providing journalists with the security to write and report freely, knowing that emergency assistance can be provided should they come under scrutiny because of their work.

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