Q&A on JFJ’s Grant Programme
Information briefing by JFJ and Frontline Freelance Register.
On 13th of February together with Frontline Freelance Register we addressed questions about our grant programme supporting international investigations into violent crimes against media. Read the full Q&A. The deadline for submitting your proposals is February, 28
Q1. My question concerns the editorial line. Does JFJ have people who will be assigned to each investigative project? For example, if I am doing a story investigating something that has happened in a hostile environment and you want to stop me? How do you want the budget proposed to reflect the development of the investigation? In essence, the reason why most of the journalists get killed is that they were looking into a story. So, as I am going through it trying to dig out different elements of what has happened, my budget might change, my original locations might have to change. How do you see that editorial discourse between you and me, how would you like to be informed, how flexible are you within the general budget? For example, I envision my investigation will be between two countries and then it will change to one or five. So, how do you plan to interact with the journalists as they are trying to figure out the story?
A1. Thank you for your question. We are not particularly interested in a very detailed budget. What we are really looking for is your understanding of what share of the allocated budget will concern travel expenses, how much will be spent on translation, fixers, fee, etc. So, general categories are important and if there are changes within these categories, we will not be particularly interested in that. What we are interested in is a total budget amount which should be within the limit we have specified. Obviously, your proposed budget should contain as much detail as you can provide at the point of drafting it. We understand that you can’t envision how your story is going to develop.
In terms of interacting with us as the story develops. Unless you request considerable change of funds’ allocation within the existing limit, we don’t need to be informed. However, please, try to envision whatever contingencies you might have, but within the approved amount of the grant you initially requested.
A2. We will have to be informed about it. The selection process, as you know, will be done by our Expert Advisory Board, and it will take them four weeks to choose the best proposals based on the anticipated format of the delivery, as well. So if there is then a change in the outcome, for example, you received our grant for creating a documentary, but then say you want to publish a series of podcasts instead, we will have to know the rational behind this in order to make sure our Advisory Board is ok with it.
A4. With the investigation often you don’t know in the beginning where it is going to lead you, and this is why you start investigating in the first place. As it develops and the budget or the format changes significantly, then yes, we need to be aware of this. But if there are no considerable implications for budget, timeline or format, we don’t need to be informed on the day-to-day basis. It is a life situation, it’s changing.
A5. The application form contains a requirement for the timeline, so when you write your proposal, you may want to include a certain timeline and budget for completing each of the stages of your investigation. It makes sense for you to write, for example: for this stage I will require this amount of money and will aim to compete it by that deadline. And then, once those stages are completed, you will have to include the expected outcome and completion date for your project as a whole. So as much detail as you want or can include at this stage, will be helpful for our Advisory Board to understand what you are planning to deliver and when.
A6. That depends on how you define the success of your project. Sometimes it will turn out that it is impossible to finish the actual investigation. But have the leads, and you are able to publish a series of articles or make a documentary, and it does not contain all answers, but contains hints.
A7. Yes, in our grant announcement we have three current cases that are recent (murdered Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, harassed and murdered journalists working with Bulgarian investigative web-site Bivol, and Russian journalist Maxim Borodin, who has seemingly committed suicide by falling out of the window of his Yekaterinburg flat). There are also three so called “cold cases”, which are crimes committed before 2017. They are the case of Azerbaijani journalist Elmar Huseynov murdered in 2005, the case of Marie Colvin murdered in Syria in 2012 and the case of Camille Lepage killed in Central African Republic in 2014. And there is the third category calling for the initiative from investigative journalists themselves to offer their own topic for investigation.
A8. No, this is an international foundation and we are not constrained just to the Russian-speaking world. We are well aware that the situation is overall worsening everywhere and Russia seems to be not the worst case.
Q9. I am pleased to see all the safety requirements in the application form. We were working a lot with ACOS and grant makers to ensure that grants to freelancers contain this clause. So it is really good that right in the beginning your grant applicants are required to have risk assessments, safety training, insurance and all those important things. Some grant makers make it one of the criteria of giving a grant that their applicants have a working relations with a news organisation so that their responsibility for safety of the freelancer is shared. Do I understand it correctly that your grant is for an investigation itself? And insurance is part of the grant? And you don’t necessarily need a letter of intent from an editor or commissioner or any confirmation that the investigation will definitely be published?
A9. We have that option. So if a staff journalist comes to us and offers such letter, we are happy to give them a grant, while their news organisation provides them their insurance. But if it is a freelancer who is not necessarily linked to any existing media organisation, we will require them to include their insurance as a special budget line.
A10. Yes, our AB members are very experienced in all issues concerting safety and they will be looking into your proposals through those lenses. Overall risks will be obviously considered. But the journalists are very much encouraged to include safety trainings as a separate line in their budget, if they feel they lack certain skills and/or qualifications required to produce their story without imposing additional risks on themselves.
Q11. As a freelancer you don’t have a firm commissioner and you don’t know whether your story is going to be published. So if the story has changed, if it becomes even more dangerous as it progresses (and we already know that there are people who are willing to kill for this story), do you have people on your Committee who will follow that through?
A11. If there is something that stands out as the story develops, we will have to put this question before our Board. They will be the ones we would ask to consider the implications and advise on the way forward.
A12. There is a limit for our grant programme overall and there is a limit to each grant. So, we are not going to give out a lot of grants. There are likely to be at least six, but probably more, as not all of the grants will be 80,000 USD; some of them will be in the region of 5,000-7,000 USD.
A13. This will be decided on the case by case basis. This depends on the agreements the grant recipient may have with various media outlets, or a group of them – it can be a joint investigative project as well. For example, a text part of your investigation can be published by Novaya Gazeta, while the media part can be broadcast by TV-Dozhd. Once we select you as our grant recipient, we will sign a formal Grant Agreement with you, where all these points, especially a clause about the rights to the story, will be written by legal professional.
A14. If a journalist who won the grant wants their name published, we will announce it. My suspicion is that the majority of winners would prefer anonymity. We would want to disclose the topics of investigations that will be covered by our grants, but we will absolutely not insist on publicising any names of journalists working on those investigations, or the amount of grant they receive, unless they specifically ask us to. Our publicity as the Foundation is much less important to us than being able to help the cause. We will not put anyone in danger unnecessarily, just for the sake of our own publicity. Supporting the cause and safety of journalists is of ultimate important to us.
A15. No, we are not interested in that level of detail. Name, credentials and CV of the Team leader if there is a team of different people whom they plan to employ for a particular investigation will be enough. We don’t need personal details of all the people involved in investigating the story at different stages, if the whole investigation is led by the same person all along. And this is should be the same person who applied for the grant, has a certain recognition in the field and proper references, as well as a clear vision, budget and timeline for the project, and is reliable in terms of delivering results.
A16. We will do our best to put all necessary safety precautions in place and ensure the information you share with us is secure.
A17. Absolutely, if your proposals meets our criteria, and falls into a category of violent crimes against journalists, you can apply for a grant under the third category.
A18. Ideally, of course, we want all the crimes against journalists fully investigated and the criminals brought to justice. However, we are realistic about the capacities of even the best media professionals, and more often than not you would be able to investigate until a certain point at which you will tell us that that’s it, this is as far as you were able to progress. So, if you discover something that you consider is too dangerous to go public with, you analyse the possible consequences and decide that a publication might put witnesses in danger, for example, if will be completely sensible to present all the evidence you have collected to proper investigators or, if not possible, to International Criminal Court, or similar.
A19. If the journalists see this is one of the likely outcomes of their investigating their story, they should include this in the proposal.
A20. In this particular case we may be looking at covering the court case, the evidence that has not been made public before and the process of bringing the criminals to justice.
A21. We are open to receive the applications till the end of this month. If there are cases where people will require additional time to put together their proposal, we can extend the submission deadline. But as we still have a couple of weeks, I believe people have enough time to submit solid proposals by the deadline of February, 28. Then our AB will have a month to study the proposals and select the likely winners. Then we will liaise with the individual applicants and inform them whether they were successful or not. Then we will discuss the details of their proposals and budgets with the winners, negotiate and sign the Grant Agreements with them. That will likely take another month. So, the funds are likely to be made available in May, subject to signed Grant Agreements.
A22. We are not a Russian organisation, we an international foundation based in the UK. We have friends and connections in Russia, and will be happy to put you in touch with different people we know, but this is not a formal support network.
A23. No, please don’t, as it may put you in unnecessary danger. It is not about our publicity, but about the cause.
A24. A lot of investigations stopped because there was lack of funding and lack of interest. The story happened, a journalist got killed, that got some media coverage, but if the investigation does not uncover who committed the crime, then nothing more is published. Or there is a pressure from the authorities on those who are trying to find out the truth. Our idea is to break this vicious cycle. We aim to continue the pressure, to help investigate and find those responsible, to exercise the pressure on the authorities to demand the official investigation, and if the authorities are not interested, to work with existing international mechanisms that are, although not perfect, are there to help.
A25. We are funding investigations of crimes against journalists, and this is the key difference between our Foundation and people like Forbidden Stories. They make sure that even if the journalist was murdered, the story they were working on gets investigated regardless. We are in the different niche – our primary goal is to investigate the crime against journalists, for example, find out who killed them, rather than what killed them. Although these are two sides of the same coin, and there is always an overlap, we focus on collecting the facts that will ultimately bring the criminals to justice.
A26. There is an administrator responsible for managing day-to-day operations and projects, and there is an Advisory Board consisting of distinguished people who assess the quality of the proposals. This is about it. The idea was not to create a bureaucracy, but rather to make all resources available for the investigative journalists to work on their stories and ultimately solve those crimes against journalists.