Report of the Supervisory Board
The programmatic results of Free Press Unlimited are described in detail in the Annual Report and Management Report. The Supervisory Board has little more to add, since in the Board’s opinion, it is a full, precise and fair representation of the facts. Of course, throughout the year the Supervisory Board has been kept informed by the Free Press Unlimited Board about the programmatic progress, developments and results on the basis of the progress reports. Based on that, the Supervisory Board establishes that Free Press Unlimited has achieved its strategic goal regarding the freedom and protection of journalists in an extremely effective manner.
In the results described in this report, what stands out in particular is that Free Press Unlimited fulfils a pioneering role, in relation to the difficult areas in which work is being done, the innovative way in which journalists are supported and how their protection is being worked on. This also applies to the large reach that Free Press Unlimited has with both the local projects that are financially and organisationally made possible, the instruments that are applied (for example, the roll out of leak platforms like Publeaks or the NetAidKit), but also how effectively journalists are supported worldwide to stand up for the important function of independent journalism as the basic condition for democratic development.
In accordance with the regulations, the Supervisory board held three regular meetings with the Board and one extraordinary meeting. In addition, there were two telephone meetings on a current issue.
Two members of the Supervisory Board carried out a performance and appraisal review with the Board, Leon Willems and Ruth Kronenburg. The conclusion of the review was that both function well and that cooperation with the Supervisory Board is excellent.
In 2016, the Supervisory Board found that there were concerns about the working environment at Free Press Unlimited. In that context, the Supervisory Board spoke to the staff representatives and confidential advisors, after which the Board had an employee satisfaction survey carried out by an external party. The conclusions drawn from the report, led to several measures by the Board that should ensure a better working environment. For example, town hall meetings were set up (interactive meetings of all employees and directors) and a Works Council was established. In 2017, the Supervisory Board determined that these measures have had the desired effect. A meeting between the Supervisory Board and the staff representation led to the same conclusion.
Partly at the insistence of the Supervisory Board, the staff representation decided, in close cooperation with the Board, to step down and make room for an official Works Council, chosen by the employees in 2017. Since 2017, the Supervisory Board has held meetings with the Works Council twice a year, without the presence of the Board. These meetings are open-hearted and – to the satisfaction of all participants – have in no way resulted in any concerns with the Supervisory Board and the Works Council.
At the end of 2017, a new employee satisfaction survey was carried out by a third party. At the beginning of February 2018, the Supervisory Board does not know the official results, but after a meeting with the Works Council, it can at least be determined that the problems as they occurred in 2016 are a thing of the past, and that a lot of progress has been made.
The extraordinary meeting was dedicated mainly to a change in the governance structure, at the Board’s request. In the Articles of Association, reference is already made to an Advisory Board,a nd the Board deems it desirable to set up an (international) Advisory Board, as the organisation is becoming more international . This may involve a further tightening of the profiles of the current Supervisory Board. In general terms, the Supervisory Board supports the Board’s position. It is expected that in the coming year the new governance structure, with due consideration of the advice of the Works Council, will be approved and subsequently implemented.
The Supervisory Board also took note of the financial problems surrounding the Radio Dabanga project. The Supervisory Board is aware of the fact that since July 2017, no (external) resources were available to allow the project to run and follows the advice of the Board to deploy its own resources for this purpose. This is due to the great importance of the project (2 million listeners daily) and the fact that the prospects of new funding is considered realistic. This decision will, however, significantly affect the result of the organisation.
From its supervisory responsibility, the Supervisory Board was also implicated in publications about the relationship between Free Press Unlimited and Radio Tamazuj. Based on all the information available to the Supervisory Board about the conflicts that played out and their history, the Supervisory Board does not agree with the image portrayed in the articles of De Correspondent. The Supervisory Board was kept informed by the Board and other Free Press Unlimited employees throughout the entire process. The Supervisory Board is critical of the publishing methods of De Correspondent. In the Supervisory Board’s view, specifically the limited rebuttal, quotations taken out of context and the omission of information that does not support the storyline, lead to biased reporting – without a balanced picture – which causes damage to Free Press Unlimited.
Last but not least, the Board is working on a new multi-annual strategy, which was discussed in detail with the Supervisory Board on two occasions. The multi-annual strategy is not yet fully completed (it is expected that it can be presented at the beginning of 2018), but the Board gives a good indication of what the worldwide trends are in the area of press freedom, journalism, media, the influence of technology and what the added value can and must be for Free Press Unlimited in that.
Joop Daalmeijer – Chairman Supervisory Board Free Press Unlimited.