Alexander and Evgeny Lebedev: Our mission is to promote free journalism across the globe


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The Independent Online

In October 2006, Anna Politkovskaya, an investigative journalist at Novaya Gazeta newspaper in Russia, was assassinated in her home after publishing a series of articles on human rights abuse and international corruption. Her case remains unresolved, but did at least generate huge international coverage.

Every day, reporters like Mrs Politkovskaya are being silenced in every corner of the world – but the rest of us hear nothing about them. Hundreds of billions of dollars have been thieved from citizens through international corruption; only journalists like her can expose this. They want to shine a light on regimes that are often autocratic and brutal, knowing that with proper public scrutiny those regimes will not survive.

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In Africa, Asia, Latin America, and even within Europe, these brave activists are harried and harassed until their lives are made intolerable. Those of us who believe in the principles of democracy are duty-bound to help them comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.

Just as they need our support, so too do journalists in countries with a deeper tradition of press freedom. Across the Western world, media institutions have been convulsed by a financial crisis. There is a sharp fall in advertising revenue, while printing and distribution costs rise. The internet has starved companies of income, turning the old business model on its head. The rise of social media and the free, anarchic flow of information in the digital age has also presented us with new challenges, especially on defending privacy, reforming libel laws, and co-operating across borders.

So Britain's newspapers – the most brilliant, raucous press corps in the world – had enough on their plate before the hacking scandal exposed a culture of skulduggery and intimidation very close to home.

It seems to us that, now more than ever, these challenges – censorship, commercial viability, and unethical practices – are jeopardising the future of journalism in the public interest. That is why we are launching The Journalism Foundation.

The Foundation will promote free and fair journalism across the globe, at a time when it appears to be running out of friends. We will provide start-up funding, but want to work in unison with others who support our founding principles.

It is a huge privilege for us to be involved in the British press. The challenge is to extend the virtues of free and fair journalism to those whose lives it can most improve. That is a challenge we relish.