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Distress Funds: Support for Media Workers in Danger
International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX)
August 14, 2002

Many organisations in the freedom of expression community have specific funds and other services available to help media workers who are endangered because of their professional work.

Organisations with distress funds that should be added to this list can email with the relevant information.

Review this material on the web at

The following distress funds are open to the public. Please get in touch with the appropriate contact person listed below.

IFEX Member Organisations

  • Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE)
    Journalists in Distress Fund
  • Human Rights Watch
    Hellman-Hammett Emergency Grants
  • International Federation of Journalists (IFJ)
    IFJ Safety Fund
  • International PEN
    PEN Emergency Fund
  • International Press Institute (IPI)
    Distress Fund
  • PEN American Center
    Writers Fund
  • Reporters Sans Frontières (RSF)
    Solidarity Fund
  • World Press Freedom Committee
    Fund Against Censorship

Other Organisations
Rights and Democracy: International Centre for Human Rights & Democratic Development
The Reebok Human Rights Award Program: Reebok Human Rights Award

IFEX Member Organisations

Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE)
PROGRAM: Journalists in Distress Fund

Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE) operates the Journalists in Distress Fund for the benefit of working journalists in defence of democracy, human rights, justice and freedom of expression. The fund exists primarily to encourage freedom of expression and the practice of journalism, and to provide humanitarian assistance to journalists whose lives and well-being are threatened.

The fund provides modest financial assistance to journalists and their families whose lives are at risk or whose freedom of expression has been seriously infringed. Examples of fundable expenses are medical costs arising from imprisonment or physical mistreatment, legal costs arising from action taken in the courts against journalists because of their reporting as well as
emergency travel costs so that journalists and their families can escape persecution.

Preference is given to journalists working in their home countries. However, requests will also be considered from journalists forced into exiles, especially if they continue to cover their home country.

Funds are not granted for ongoing expenses to organisations, institutions or enterprises.

AMOUNT AWARDED: Normally US$200 to US$2,000, depending on the case.

CONTACT: David Cozac
PHONE: +416 515 9622
FAX: +416 515 7879
ADDRESS: 489 College St., Suite 403, Toronto, Ontario, M6G 1A5 Canada

Human Rights Watch

PROGRAM: Hellman/Hammett Emergency Grants

For writers all around the world who have been victims of political persecution and are in financial need.

In addition to providing much needed financial assistance, the Hellman/Hammett grants focus attention on repression of free speech and censorship by publicizing persecution that the grant recipients endured.

In some cases the publicity is a protection against further abuse. In other cases, the writers request anonymity because of the dangerous circumstances in which they and their families are living.


QUALIFICATIONS: Given to writers in urgent need to leave their country or who are otherwise in dire material circumstances.

CONTACT(S) for both: Marcia Allina, Program Associate
PHONE: +212 290 4700
FAX: +212 736 1300
ADDRESS: 350 Fifth Avenue, 34th Floor, New York, NY 10018-3299

International Federation of Journalists (IFJ)
PROGRAM: IFJ Safety Fund

SERVICE(S) PROVIDED: This fund provides emergency cash to journalists and their families in circumstances where medical aid is needed arising from violence against reporters, or situations where journalists must go into hiding.

The Safety Fund Coordinator investigates all requests for aid, and applications must be in writing.


QUALIFICATIONS: Aid is only given under conditions that make it impossible for journalists to meet the expenses themselves

REQUESTS: Applications must be in writing

CONTACT(S): Safety Fund Coordinator
FAX: +
ADDRESS: Boulevard Charlemagne 1, Bte 5, B1041, Brussels, BELGIUM

International PEN
PROGRAM: PEN Emergency Fund

The fund aims to raise money in order to help writers and journalists who are convicted for practicing their right of freedom of expression. In some cases, the Fund also supports the families.

The funds aim to assist writers/journalists who are in need for such things as medical treatment for injuries/illness as a result of torture, detention, or attack, etc. It rarely finances legal aid.

The fund receives much information from the Writers in Prison Committee (WiPC) of International PEN, whose chair is ex officio an advisory member of the fund's board.

AMOUNT AWARDED: Case-based; the fund spends about $50,000 a year.

QUALIFICATIONS: The fund has helped many writers who have had to flee their country and now live in exile. Often they have no source of income when they arrive in a new country.

CONTACT: J. Bernlef, Chair
PHONE: +44 1 71 253 3266
FAX: +44 1 71 253 5711
ADDRESS: 9-10 Charterhouse Buildings, Goswell Road, London, EC1M 7AT,
United Kingdom

International Press Institute (IPI)
PROGRAM: Distress Fund

Support is available on a case by case basis depending on the individual situation

CONTACT: Johann Fritz
PHONE: +43 1 512 90 11
FAX: +43 1 512 90 14
ADDRESS: Spiegelgasse 2/29, A-1010 Vienna, Austria

PEN American Center
PROGRAM: Writers Fund

The PEN Writers Fund is an emergency fund for professional--published or produced--writers with serious financial difficulties.
The Writers Fund does not exist for research purposes, to enable the completion of writing projects, or to fund publications or organisations.
The Writers Fund Committee meets approximately every two months to review applications.

AMOUNT AWARDED: Grants from US$400 to US$1000. The maximum amount is given only under especially dire circumstances and when monies are

QUALIFICATIONS: Grants are given to writers who are in exile in the United States.

REQUESTS: Contact P.E.N. for an application. Writing samples are required. Grants and loans are based on emergency financial need only.

CONTACT: Vicki Vinton, Coordinator, P.E.N. Writers Fund
PHONE: +212 334-1660, ext. 101.
ADDRESS: 568 Broadway, New York, NY, USA 10012

Reporters Sans Frontères (RSF)
PROGRAM: Solidarity Fund

This fund offers practical help to journalists, sending lawyers to the aid of imprisoned journalists where necessary.

The fund also helps purchase equipment for the press in the developing world and provides emergency funds to journalists' associations.

PHONE: +33 1 44 83 84 84
FAX: +33 1 45 23 11 51
ADDRESS: 5, rue Geoffroy Marie, 75009 Paris, France

World Press Freedom Committee
PROGRAM: Fund Against Censorship

This Fund provides assistance grants to journalists and media facing prosecution for their work. These grants are directed primarily towards the hiring of local lawyers to ensure fair trials in cases that are often politically motivated and intended to silence independent news media.

WPFC administers this fund on behalf of 8 groups: Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Commonwealth Press Union (CPU), Inter American Press Association (IAPA), International Press Institute (IPI), International Association of Broadcasting (IAB), International Federation of the Periodical Press (FIPP), North American National Broadcasters Association (NANBA),
World Association of Newspapers (WAN), and World Press Freedom Committee (WPFC).

QUALIFICATIONS: Journalists or media facing criminal prosecution.

REQUESTS: Journalists and news media facing legal charges can seek help through the Fund by contacting any one of the nine participating press freedom groups.

CONTACTS: Marilyn Greene, Executive Director or Mary-Esther Dattareyan
PHONE: +703 715 9811
FAX: +703 620 6790
ADDRESS: 11690-C Sunrise Valley Drive, Reston, Virginia USA 20191

Non-Member Organisations

International Centre for Human Rights & Democratic Development
PROGRAM: 2001 John Humphrey Freedom Award

Presented to a non-governmental organisation (NGO) or an individual for exceptional achievement in the defense or promotion of human rights and/or democratic development.

AMOUNT AWARDED: The Award consists of a grant of $25,000 as well as a speaking tour of Canadian cities to help increase awareness of the recipient's human rights work.

The winner will be selected by an international jury composed of five members of the Centre's Board of Directors.

QUALIFICATIONS: Must be committed to peace and non-violence. Must be independent of any political party or governmental affiliation. Preference will be given to those working on the frontline, under conditions hostile to the recognition and application of basic human and democratic rights. The Award is not given posthumously. Former staff or board members of Rights & Democracy are not eligible. Preference will be given to those involved in the
priority issues of R&D, namely: women's rights, Indigenous peoples' rights, economic globalization and human rights, democratic development/justice.

REQUESTS: You can submit a nomination by mail, fax or e-mail with the following

a letter describing the nominee, their work and why they merit this Award
a curriculum vitae or organisational profile supporting documentation such as articles written by or about the nominee

CONTACT: Augie van Biljouw
PHONE: +514 283 6073
FAX: +514 283 3792
ADDRESS: 1001 boul. De Maisonneuve East, Montréal, Québec H2L 4P9

The Reebok Human Rights Award Program
PROGRAM: Reebok Human Rights Award

An annual award that honours activists under the age of 30 who have significantly improved the human rights conditions in their communities. The purpose of the Award is to shine a positive, international light on the awardees and to support their work in human rights.

AMOUNT AWARDED: $50,000 grants are made to support the work of Awardees.

QUALIFICATIONS: Award candidates must be 30 years of age or younger by December 31 of the Award year. Award candidates cannot advocate violence or belong to an organisation that advocates violence. Award candidates must be working on an issue that directly relates to the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Women and men of all races, ethnic groups, nationalities and religions are eligible. The Reebok Human Rights Award is
given to an individual, based on that individual's personal achievement and commitment. It is not given to groups of people, organisations, or as a memorial award to people who have died.

REQUESTS: Letters of recommendation should highlight why the individual is being recommended for the award, how long the nominator has been aware of the individual's contributions and any special obstacles overcome by the candidate. Personal information on family background and the history of how the candidate began doing human rights work is also encouraged. Nominators must specify whether the Award candidate has received or is currently nominated for other human rights awards. A complete nomination includes:
an application form, a letter of nomination, three additional letters of support, proof of age and any additional items that describe the candidate's work. It is possible for these items to be sent separately (please note on the application form what items are being sent separately).


    • Completed application form
    • Letter of nomination
    • Three letters of reference for the candidate in addition to the nomination letter.
      (The letters should answer the following questions:
      How long have you known the candidate and in what capacity? What are the personal achievements of the candidate? What motivated this person to begin human rights work, and what continues to inspire them? What are the obstacles that the nominee faces in accomplishing his/her work? How has the nominee lead or engaged others in his/her work? How has the nominee’s work impacted the community?)
    • A copy of nominee's birth certificate or other proof of age. Supporting materials such as: photographs, newspaper clippings, narratives or other items describing the candidate's work.

      Please note that materials submitted with the nomination cannot be returned.


CONTACT(S): Paula van Gelder, Director of Public Affairs. For more information about the nomination process, please call (781) 401-4969.
PHONE: + 781-401-4910
FAX: +781-401-4806
ADDRESS: Reebok International Ltd., 1895 J.W. Foster Blvd., Canton, MA 02021 U.S.A.

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