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PFDF Partnership and Grant Brings the Belarus Solidarity Fund to Over $1 Million Raised to Support Belarusian Civil Society

NEW YORK (December 14, 2021) – First Look Institute’s Press Freedom Defense Fund is partnering with the Human Rights Foundation’s (HRF) Belarus Solidarity Fund to support independent Belarusian journalists and media outlets who are being persecuted by Alexander Lukashenko’s regime for criticizing the Belarusian government.

“Journalists working to expose the truth under oppressive regimes boldly risk their safety and livelihood to bring us closer to achieving an open, informed society,” said James Risen, Director of the Press Freedom Defense Fund. “The independent journalists of Belarus are performing a vital service to their country, and we are proud to join the Human Rights Foundation in supporting them as they work to report on crucial information the Belarusian people, and the world, deserve to know.”

Part of the funds will be used to support more than 30 individual Belarusian journalists in exile during their transition and relocation. This will include independent bloggers and vloggers, who produce some of the best content in the Belarusian media environment but are not afforded the same protections as journalists in professional organizations. The remaining funds will directly benefit Belarusian newsrooms struggling to acquire equipment, compensate personnel, and hire freelancers to continue their independent work. Many of these outlets are working in exile from countries such as Poland, Ukraine, and Lithuania. 

“Every day, the cruelty and callousness of the Lukashenko regime reaches new lows, and it is more important than ever to support Belarusian civil society,” said Céline Assaf-Boustani, President of the Human Rights Foundation. “We are excited to work with the Press Freedom Defense Fund to support the courageous work Belarusian journalists do to expose the crimes of the Lukashenko regime, and grateful to all of our supporters who continue to donate to defend freedom in Belarus.”

Since its inception in August 2020, HRF’s Belarus Solidarity Fund has provided a lifeline to the activists and civil society leaders that comprise the Belarusian pro-democracy movement. The fund provides equipment and assistance to independent journalists who, at great personal risk, continue to report on events in Belarus even in the face of government repression. The fund also supports human rights organizations that help persecuted Belarusians find legal assistance, and Belarusians that have had to flee the country to escape the repression of the Lukashenko regime. HRF’s partnership with the Press Freedom Defense Fund brings the total raised by the Belarus Solidarity Fund in just 16 months to over $1 million.

In addition to the Human Rights Foundation, the Press Freedom Defense Fund has also collaborated with various partners to provide substantial resources towards the legal aid of well over 30 journalists and news organizations globally. One of the defining cases First Look Institute’s Press Freedom Defense Fund has supported is that of Maria Ressa and Rappler, the Philippine digital news site she co-founded and for which she serves as Executive Editor. Ressa and Rappler have been the target of several lawsuits and criminal charges filed against them because of critical news reports on Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and his administration. Ressa was recently awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for “safeguarding freedom of expression.” The Fund recently accepted a $500,000 donation from the Google News Initiative, which will help support others like Maria Ressa and Belarusian journalists who face harassment and legal charges.

About First Look Institute:

First Look Institute is a nonprofit organization committed to fearless reporting, bold filmmaking, and defending those who speak truth to power. By empowering journalists to unearth injustices, unbeholden to outside influences, by investing in a generation of trailblazing filmmakers; and by protecting risk-taking reporters and whistleblowers from retribution, First Look Institute vigilantly defends our First Amendment rights so democracy can flourish. First Look Institute is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

 About the Press Freedom Defense Fund:

The Press Freedom Defense Fund provides essential legal support for journalists, news organizations, and whistleblowers who are targeted by governments, corporations, or other powerful figures because they have tried to bring to light information that is in the public interest and necessary for a functioning democracy. The Fund also provides legal resources for operational needs of reporters and news organizations through a pro bono law firm and provides training and education programs to an array of journalists, lawyers, and nonprofit organizations.

The Press Freedom Defense Fund fearlessly and relentlessly dedicates itself to protecting freedom of the press. Free speech should be regarded as a right, investigative reporting a duty, and whistleblowing an act of bravery. The Press Freedom Defense Fund Advisory Committee includes Jameel Jaffer, Tom Rosenstiel, Sandy Rowe, Dave Schulz, and Nabiha Syed.

About the Human Rights Foundation:

The Human Rights Foundation (HRF) is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that promotes and protects human rights globally, with a focus on closed societies. HRF unites people in the common cause of defending human rights and promoting liberal democracy. Our mission is to ensure that freedom is both preserved and promoted around the world. HRF focuses its work on the founding ideas of the human rights movement: those most purely represented in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the 1976 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. HRF is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

For More information Contact:

Human Rights Foundation                             

Tara Everton

[email protected]

First Look Institute/PFDF

Jeannie Kedas

[email protected]

Megan Choate

[email protected]