Big spenders make their bids to support freedom of the press

  • @robhastings

Hugh Grant and Jemima Khan, two of the fiercest critics of press malpractice, were among the famous names backing the media as a force for good last night at a gala event hosted by The Journalism Foundation.

Showcasing the charity's projects – which bolster democracy from Stoke-on-Trent to South Sudan and from Tanzania to Tunisia through the power of press freedom – the gathering included an auction of "money-can't-buy" gifts donated by distinguished supporters, with all proceeds going directly to the initiatives.

The foundation, established in 2011 by Evgeny Lebedev, the chairman of the companies which own The Independent and the Evening Standard, held the event at the London auction house Phillips de Pury.

Grant has been one of the most high-profile witnesses to appear before the Leveson Inquiry into media standards, but the actor said he was also eager to recognise the vital work done by investigative journalists around the world. "I've been ranting and raving about the bad side of the press," Grant said. "But my little group, Hacked Off, and I are equally exercised by issues of press freedom, which is why I think that this is important." Lots in the auction included lunch with Grant and the Hollywood actress Gillian Anderson at Gordon Ramsay's restaurant in Claridge's hotel and flights to New Zealand for the world premiere of The Hobbit. A dinner at the buyer's house cooked by the acclaimed chef Mark Hix also excited bidders.

Simon Kelner, chief executive of the foundation, said: "Our mission is to develop and sustain free and ethical journalism by supporting media projects that have a positive effect on people's lives. We hope that the generosity of those attending the evening will help us fund the projects that further these aims."

One of the foundation's leading causes has been the Tanzanian newspaper Kwanza Jamii. The charity provided funding to extend the newspaper's outreach, providing "community-first journalism" to people in some of the poorest regions of rural Tanzania, and is founding a journalism college in the country.

Meanwhile, in South Sudan, it is supporting Integrity, an organisation currently training 10 young people in mobile and video journalism.

Closer to home, a series of weekend courses in community radio journalism is being set up in Lincoln. The foundation also helped to relaunch Stoke-on-Trent's political website, Pits n Pots.