Mission and vision

In our ideal world everyone has access to independent, reliable and timely information. To make this possible, Free Press Unlimited supports media and journalists worldwide.

Our vision is short and to the point: People deserve to know. All over the world.

Our mission stems logically from that. Everyone has the right to independent, reliable and timely information. People need that information to control their living conditions and to make the right decisions.

To that end, press freedom and freedom of information are indispensable. That is why Free Press Unlimited supports local media professionals and journalists, particularly in countries with limited (press) freedom. They are close to their audience and are the best guarantee for a sustainable, professional and diverse media landscape. We enable them to give people access to the information that helps them survive, to develop themselves, and with which they can monitor their governments.

These are our core values:

Tailored Approach

Our goal and our approach

Free Press Unlimited believes that everyone has the right to reliable information. We support media and organisations so they can also perform their work safely and professionally in dangerous circumstances. We stand for the protection of journalists in their search for the truth on all (political, legal, social and economic) fronts. How do we do that and how do we measure the effect of our work?

Three pillars support our main goal

Citizens and civil society organisations that want to combat poverty and inequality in their societies cannot do so without access to information, independent media and freedom of expression. Conversely, media needs these organisations and citizens to know what is going on. What issues are important to their readers, listeners and viewers? By enabling independent reporting and public debate on them, independent media can contribute to positive changes in their society.

Free Press Unlimited is strongly committed to this main goal: a diverse, professional information landscape consisting of independent media and journalists that drive (social) change in their society.

Three issues are crucial to ensuring local media can fulfil their important social role. We call these our intermediate goals, the pillars under the media landscape. These pillars must be firmly rooted, before we can achieve our main goal.

1. Journalists must be able to do their work. This requires, among other things, proper legislation that guarantees their safety and the freedom of expression, but also that (government) information is accessible.
2. Media and journalists must be committed to the interests of the population, act as its watchdog. It is therefore necessary that they have the right contacts – and cooperate where appropriate – with other social players, such as media organisations or stakeholder groups. Media must reflect the diversity in society.
3. Media professionals must be properly educated, so they can deliver the quality to which their audience is entitled. Media must be able to be and remain independent of government or big money lenders.

All our projects contribute to one or more of these intermediate goals. For instance, in Somalia we organise ‘Councils of Peace’, where media representatives and government enter into the dialogue with each other in a respectful manner. We help Kunafoni WebTV to enable Malian youth to deliver objective news through rap and involve them in the social problems in their country. And together with the Iraqi photo agency Metrography we reinforce and professionalise independent photo journalism in this country.

This is how we measure the effect of our work

Of course we want to know if our work makes a (positive) difference. That is why we systematically monitor and evaluate all our projects: what has been achieved and where do we need to give more support? Have we picked the correct strategies or should we adapt them? Is the change happening as we predicted, in other words: is our Theory of Change (ToC) still correct? This is how we learn valuable lessons about what does and does not work. And because we continuously assess the effects and results of our work, we can provide sound accountability to our supporters and donors. This process is known as MEAL and consists of the following English terms: monitoring, evaluation, accountability and learning.

In 2018, we evaluated the Speak Up Zambia project, in which we educated citizen journalists (particularly female) for three years to report the news from their slums in a professional manner. We investigated what our support meant for the work of the citizen journalists involved, community radios and to their audience. One of the conclusions: the project had limited, but demonstrable impact, for example improvement in the service provided by the local government. These findings were based on focus groups, a large number of one-on-one interviews and stories gathered with the Most Significant Change methodology.

What were the conclusions? Many citizen journalists told how, thanks to the training, they found the courage to call the authorities to account. An increasing number of community radio stations broadcast their reports or brought the news from the slums themselves. And thanks to these reports people managed to find the way to the municipal services and demand better service. However, it was mainly thanks to the tenacity of the citizen journalists that public services responded much faster. They succeeded in making sure that garbage was cleared more effectively, the broken roof of the school was repaired and they looked into how single mothers could register their children without permission from the father.

Partners harvest their outcomes

We first used the Outcome Harvesting evaluation method in 2017 in Somalia and Pakistan. In 2018, we also used the same method in other countries. Although we also learned the limitations – it is still difficult to uncover the negative effects of a project in reliable manner – the method once again gave us valuable insights. One major advantage of Outcome Harvesting is that this also measures results we had not set as goal in advance, but which are important to our partners. Last year, we harvested outcomes in six countries: Somalia, Congo, Nepal, Pakistan, Iraq and Indonesia. Together with our partners we assessed whether our Theory of Change is still correct.

In March 2018, six Congolese partners and Free Press Unlimited came together in the capital, Kinshasa, to harvest the outcomes of No News Is Bad News in Congo. They summarised who they had influenced, what that meant and how the programme had contributed to that. A total of 42 results were put on the table, both positive and negative. For example in 2018, the Minister of Media and Communication recognised the importance of community radios to the election process (Congo went to the ballot box in December 2018).

There were also some gems among the ‘unplanned’ results. Like the showers and places to cook that women in Bukavu prison were given after a critical radio broadcast from one of our partners. Or the association for support of albinos that was founded in Kivu after a radio programme that denounced discrimination against albinos. An example of an unintentional negative consequence of the publication of a report by partner JED about the safety of journalists in Congo, was that JED founder, Thsivis Tshivuadi, received severe threats and was forced to flee his house.

Most Significant Change

What is the most important change that, partly thanks to the cooperation with Free Press Unlimited, you have experienced in recent times? That is what we ask journalists involved in our projects, by means of the Most Significant Change (MSC) method. Was it really useful to them? By interviewing them we retrieve stories that would otherwise remain unheard in normal evaluation methods. In addition to registering ‘indicators’, we ask journalists themselves to say what the effect of our work is. Also with this method, we ask for both positive and negative experiences.

In Bangladesh, after five years, we evaluated a programme of our partner Bangladesh NGOs Network for Radio and Communication (BNNRC), in which 21 young women and Dalits (‘untouchables’) were trained to be radio journalists. Of course we also deployed the Most Significant Change method here. It was with good reason that the programme won multiple international and national awards, but what did the student journalists think of it? Could they develop into professional journalists and were they indeed change-makers within their community, as was our goal?

We collected seventeen stories, supplemented those with ten in-depth interviews and desk research, and came to the conclusion that both the trainees and the community radio stations had changed. The trainees broke through (gender) stereotypes and felt more self-confident; they received recognition and work, and were drivers of change in their families and communities. ‘Now I have a job as a presenter and I make my own programme. Even officials know me. However, the most important thing is that I have given a voice to the poor and disadvantaged Dalit community that I come from,’ Subroto Halder tells us. Conversely, the trainees also had an influence on the community radio stations that trained them. The content became more diverse and the radio makers were more committed to the interests of women and Dalits.

Midterm Review No News Is Bad News

One good example of our approach is No News Is Bad News. In 2018, Free Press Unlimited put a lot of time and energy into a thorough interim evaluation (the Midterm Review) of this programme. The two most important questions were: what have we achieved in the last 2.5 years? And what can we learn from how those results were achieved, or not achieved? In other words: has change occurred in the way we anticipated?

A Midterm Review like this determines in part how we will proceed with No News Is Bad News, so we wanted it to be carried out as well as possible. So we used various research methods, deployed 20 students to test our Theory of Change and asked external experts for their assessment of the evaluation. In this way, we think we can avoid being unwittingly biased in our conclusions; the Midterm Review is, after all, an internal evaluation.

We investigated what had changed for our partners, media and journalists in relation to the baseline situation, before No News Is Bad News started. And we organised Outcome Harvesting workshops and gathered Most Significant Change stories to determine whether our strategies worked. We examined a total of 39 strategies on the basis of 247 harvested outcomes and 107 stories. We drew up good examples of projects that have raised the safety of journalists and gender equality, successfully held the authorities accountable and helped media to stand on their own two feet.

The key question – what does and does not work – resulted in an amendment to our Theory of Change. Because, of course not everything went according to plan. Some strategies proved to be less relevant or effective, others worked far above expectation. Our three intermediate goals remained intact, but in several cases, we changed the path towards reaching them and the results we wanted to achieve along the way.

For instance, in the case of intermediate goal 1 (journalists must be able to do their job) we discovered that we should not focus only on legislation and political influence. Economic factors can also make or break press freedom – think of media being bought up by governments or media conglomerates that want to push independent media out of the market. So we added that to our Theory of Change with strategies for the survival of independent media.

The Midterm Review gives a good idea of what works and what doesn’t, but also gives us new questions. Does more gender equality in the media automatically lead to content that does more justice to women? Is educating citizen journalists the best way of providing news to media-impoverished and under-represented groups? And which business models are in fact the most effective for various media in conflict areas? We want to be able to give a well-substantiated answer to these questions and more. That is why we have drawn up an ambitious research agenda, into which our Knowledge & Quality team can sink its teeth in the coming years.

Innovative revenue models

Free Press Unlimited can do a lot, but we are (still) not good at supporting media organisations to remain financially independent (intermediate goal 3). That’s not surprising, since the entire media sector is desperately searching for new revenue models. But it is a clear and recurring question from our partners: how do we keep our independent head above water at a time when governments are buying up media, social media giants are swallowing advertising revenues and the general public thinks that news is free? Last year we already had the new business models of independent online media in Central America examined, this year we brought the Guatemalan Nómada and Confidencial from Nicaragua – that are experimenting widely with new sources of income – in contact with the Russian-Language News Exchange.

The Russian-Language News Exchange has extensive experience with innovative business models and wants to share that knowledge with other partners. For this platform, the revenue models from the Central American colleagues are of interest. Nómada, strong in digital productions, has a set up a separate department that produces videos for commercial customers. It also delivers monthly political and economic analyses for a fee to a number of banks and international organisations. Confidencial prefers to keep control of the content and had almost hooked a major customer when the violence in Nicaragua forced the newspaper to take a step back.

Despite the difference in conditions for Russian-language and Central American media, the similarities are numerous. Both operate in (post-)conflict areas that are rife with corruption, where independent media are under economic pressure. At the same time, this is precisely the media that dare to denounce corruption, so is extremely important that they remain viable. How can they do that without giving up their independence? Nómada and Confidencial have jointly drawn up a list of acceptable customers in Central America and a list with no-go criteria (no corrupt companies, no violence and no discriminatory content). The Russian-Language News Exchange is a textbook example of a successful collaboration between media, where the shared content and expertise saves all the partners a lot of money. The platform also offers training and workshops to NGOs and media. Free Press Unlimited will support these and other experiments with earnings models with a solid research agenda and room for exchange.


In October, fifteen Free Press Unlimited employees, together with students, designers and experts, looked into four pressing issues for which we were looking for an innovative solution. As an investigative journalist, how can you safely look for missing refugee children and the reason for their disappearance? What are the best ways for media in exile to protect their sources in the country of origin? Outside their own offices, in conversation with experts and bombarded with out-of-the-box questions from other ‘hackers’, the four teams came up with creative ideas during this Amsterdam hackathon. There was a prize to be won: that went to the idea for an augmented reality podcast with which our media partners in non-western countries can tell about their work.

Our stakeholders

Our stakeholders are a colourful collection of local media partners, crucial financiers and loyal donors. How do we work with them, whose indispensable support makes our work possible? And let’s not forget: how do we communicate with all those stakeholders?

Our partners

Free Press Unlimited’s most important stakeholders are the 66 local media partners in 31 countries, with which we work on access to reliable, independent and relevant information for everyone. We have great respect for their work and they appreciate our support. The fact that we work from the same vision and develop projects together, makes us unique in the eyes of our partners. Our commitment and follow-up are also much appreciated.

Overall, our partners are very pleased with the work of Free Press Unlimited, as can be seen from the partner satisfaction survey that we organised at the end 2018. At 72% the response was once again higher than the previous year (66%). The partners are most appreciative of the communication and relationship with Free Press Unlimited; the longer the relationship, the more satisfied the partner. Their feedback is extremely valuable to us: what can we do even more or better, what are their priorities?

In 2017, the partners were least satisfied with our support for their capacity development and training, but in the last year we succeeded in improving: in 2018 they said this was precisely one of our strengths. This year our monitoring and evaluation scored adequate, but worse than the other categories. So that is something we have to work hard on in the coming year. What we specifically need to continue with, according to our partners, is the successful policy influencing together with them and civil society organisations. Our activities for gender equality can also count on approval.

Gender equality is the topic on which the partners would prefer to gather and exchange knowledge (next to business models and fake news). In 2019, we will set up a pilot Community of Practice, of partners who want to learn more about gender equality with and from each other.

In 2018, we prepared the Global Partner Meeting which we are organising in February 2019. Almost all the No News Is Bad News partners are coming together in Prague to discuss the programme strategies and develop future plans. The meeting is also a network event: we want to encourage partners even more to collaborate and to set up regional initiatives.

Our Friends

It is with good reason that we call our private donors Friends. Because the 3,085 loyal Free Press Unlimited supporters, 125 more than last year, are friends of press freedom and the right to information. They donate not only money, but also their critical involvement and enthusiastic voice – for example, when it comes to the safety of journalists or the protection of sources (think of the Wiv). We are happy to give these Friends a place of honour at events such as Free Press Live.

In 2018, financial support also came from people who are not (yet) regular donors. In particular, a letter we sent with the De Groene Amsterdammer in September shook readers up and earned us more Friends. There was an image of a man shrouded in clothes from the bomb disposal services on the envelope, with the text ‘this man has one of the most dangerous professions in the world’. The letter made it quite clear that the man was a journalist. We received a total of € 70.483,70 in gifts, 38% more than last year.

Instead of expensive gifts from contacts at the end of the year, money for a good cause. That’s the VBVB ICT philosophy: every year the ICT company thanks its clients with a donation to three causes. In 2018, Free Press Unlimited was one of them and received € 1,000. VPRO employees could also exchange their Christmas parcel for a € 35 donation to Free Press Unlimited; 37 chose to do that. The Goede Doelen Loterijen (Dutch Charitable Lotteries) donated a large sum to our project Publeaks Netherlands: € 5,000. This was money that the organisation had won as first prize in the 2018 NAF Architecture Award (for ICT architecture). Talitha taught students about press freedom, but fell ill and now supports the access to information in another way: 20% of the proceeds of the handmade home jewellery that her company tali.rocks sells, goes to Free Press Unlimited. And Drukbedrijf.nl supports the work of Free Press Unlimited by sponsoring our printing. All of them fantastic initiatives with which we are really pleased.

Our donors

Free Press Unlimited considers itself lucky with its dedicated donors who see the importance of our work, and also understand how complex this often is. They are happy to share their ideas with us: a valuable addition to our own expertise. For a number of years, our most loyal donor has been the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs that is our strategic partner in the No News Is Bad News programme and that makes the new Legal Defense Fund possible.

We are also extremely pleased with the Swedish Sida, that supports the professionalisation of the Syrian media sector in exile. . The Swedish Postcode Lottery decided to make youth in Mexico, South Africa and Sweden more digitally resilient through our new programme Keeping it Real. This programme examines the digital media behaviour of 13-year-olds and based on that, collaborates with them on ideas that enable young people to use social media safely, and provided with reliable information.

In 2018, our staff succeeded in raising over € 14 million in funds for our projects. To that end, we submitted 48 proposals, of which 22 were honoured by the end of 2018: a success rate of over 56%, significantly higher than we scored at the end of 2017 (almost 40%). To further build on this success, we hired a new Manager Partnerships and Fundraising in September. She maintains contact with our donors and she and her team are committed to a steady growth in revenues for our work.

The Dutch Postcode Lottery

The Dutch Postcode Lottery has supported the work of Free Press Unlimited for more than twenty years. We and our media partners are immensely grateful to the 2.9 million Postcode Lottery participants.

In addition to the annual contribution of € 900,000, in 2018 the Postcode Lottery supported the 3-year international research project, Money Trail, that we submitted jointly with Oxfam Novib. Journalists in Asia, Africa and Europe are learning how to do (cross boundary) research into financial misconduct that makes the rich richer and the poor poorer. Within this project, Free Press Unlimited is responsible for the training in digital safety.

Postcode Lottery Fund for Journalists

In December 2018, the Postcode Lottery Fund for Journalists celebrated its tenth anniversary: a unique source of funds for special foreign reports by Dutch journalists, that are managed by Free Press Unlimited. Foreign reports are expensive, that is why there have been a lot of cuts by editing staff, but thanks to the fund, journalists can still realise their dream. Journalist Lennart Hofman, who has gone on several trips with support from the fund, is convinced: ‘Without the fund, I would not be a journalist.’

In 2018, with support from the fund, journalistic gems were made, like the youth documentary, Bachir in Wonderland, about a young refugee in the Sahara. Or the scandal exposed by Olivier van Beemen about the Heineken promotion girls in Africa, who were systematically sexually abused. And without the fund, the series about Mohamad, a Syrian boy who has a rare condition that causes him to look like an old man, would never have been written. In the past year, the (often freelance) journalists published a total of 66 unique stories in media such NRC, Follow the Money, OneWorld, De Groene Amsterdammer and on NPO3.

Thanks to the fund, journalists will again be able to make unique reports in the coming year. In 2018 we received a total of 45 requests, 15 of which we approved. Very little money is available for in-depth investigative journalism abroad; since 2016, the Postcode Lottery Fund has been providing a remedy here too. Two journalists received up to € 16,500 for their investigative journalistic plans abroad and thirteen others can implement their report proposals (of maximum € 5,000).

Our audience

The photo on the letter we sent with the De Groene Amsterdammer in September, tells a story: how dangerous it is to be a journalist in many places in the world. And how ridiculous it is, when you realise that it is precisely journalists who provide us with crucial information and therefore strengthen our democracy. Our communications team now knows better than before how to gather these types of story and tell them in an appealing way.

The storytelling training we gave to programme staff last year is now paying off. In 2018, we published our stories in the second edition of the No News Is Bad News newspaper and on a dedicated page on our website. In addition, we took on a copywriter who can write good stories in English. And because a picture often speaks a thousand words, a number of colleagues took a photography workshop and we asked (local) photographers to put our projects into pictures. This is how we involve a partially new audience in the important work that our partners do.

Which target groups we approach in what way, depends on our relationship with them and on their information need. We always keep it as personal as possible: a handwritten card, a personal letter or an invitation. We also adapt our mailings to the different groups of recipients, so that they only receive really relevant post from us.

Social media are the most important channels with which we involve people with Free Press Unlimited. We have designed our website in such a way that people can quickly find what they are looking for, but also stay on the website longer and do more there. We have succeeded in this set up, as is reflected in the figures for 2018: the average time people spend on freepressunlimited.org has risen again and the bounce rate (people who leave again immediately) dropped further. Moreover, the number of actions increased, like searches and downloads.

The number of followers on Twitter grew by over 1,780 to 8,680. We also made more friends on Facebook in 2018: we now have 18,760. Our LinkedIn network expanded by about 250 people to 1,255 and on Instagram the counter is at 447. The Free Press Unlimited YouTube videos were viewed almost 2,000 times more often than in 2017: 11,780 times.

Contact with our supporters

This is how we stay in contact with our (potential) supporters:

  • We distribute 1,000 copies of the English newspaper, No News Is Bad News, during Free Press Live, for example.
  • After publishing the collection of Publeaks stories in Dutch, in 2018 we published an English language version. It includes stories that came about thanks to whistleblower platforms in the Netherlands and Mexico. We are distributing the 500 copies to national and international contacts.
  • A factsheet with statistics about the work of Free Press Unlimited gives people an impression of our organisation and results at a glance.
  • In May and December we sent our Friends and potential Friends a letter in which we brought them up to date on our work.
  • We send a monthly Dutch e-mail newsletter with over 1,320 subscribers and an English e-mail newsletter to 650 subscribers. The new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) requires subscribers to actively confirm the subscription and that led to a significant drop in the number of subscriptions.


Men4Women Our Men4Women initiative hit the mark, to involve men in the media sector in women’s rights and gender equality. It began in 2017 as a march in 3 countries, this year men from 14 countries took action. This growth was also due to the possibility of expressing online support through shout-outs using the hashtag…


Our Men4Women initiative hit the mark, to involve men in the media sector in women’s rights and gender equality. It began in 2017 as a march in 3 countries, this year men from 14 countries took action. This growth was also due to the possibility of expressing online support through shout-outs using the hashtag #M4W18. 140 people posted a photo with a shout-out on our Facebook page and in Mali, 1,600 people used an M4W frame to demand gender equality. In this West African country, the online campaign reached almost 11,000 people. In 8 countries, 3,600 people took to the streets or attended an M4W event. In the Netherlands, flyers were handed out at the Mediapark in Hilversum and at the offices of major newspapers. Because women and men took action together in a growing number of countries, we decided to change the name of our initiative to Move4Women: everyone on the move for women’s rights!

Press Freedom Day

On 3rd May, Free Press Unlimited organised the Festival of the Free Word (Festival het Vrije Woord), together with the Dutch Association of Journalists (NVJ), World Press Photo and the Association of Chief Editors, among others. On this Press Freedom Day, some 150 journalists, students and other interested parties came to Beeld en Geluid in Hilversum. They listened to a Press Freedom lecture, talks about press freedom in the digital era and about the challenges in financial journalism. Furthermore, one of our colleagues gave a workshop on digital security.


Using this hashtag, dozens of visitors posted their engaged, emotional or encouraging messages for the speakers during Free Press Live 2018. Once again we were able to organise this event in the Peace Palace, thanks to the municipality of the Hague, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Dutch Postcode Lottery.
On 2nd November, over 300 journalists, policy makers, students and other interested parties came to listen to a series of impressive speakers. Free Press Unlimited director, Ruth Kronenburg, kicked off with a personal story about courage and the necessity of standing up for (press) freedom, after which Martin Turĉek, Paul Caruana Galizia, Jeroen Akkermans and Paul Vugts confirmed what presenter Aldith Hunkar had suggested: ‘Being a journalist is a serious health hazard.’ Foreign Affairs Minister Stef Blok offered journalists in need a helping hand: he launched the Legal Defense Fund, funded by his ministry, with which Free Press Unlimited can offer legal assistance to journalists abroad.

Journalist Martin Turĉek told of how the murder of his colleague, Jan Kúciak, led to cooperation between Slovak media, and how 100,000 enraged demonstrators forced the ministers responsible to resign. Paul, the youngest son of murdered investigative journalist, Daphne Caruana Galizia, emphasised that killing journalists is often preceded by years of threats. Jeroen Akkermans spoke about his persistent, years-long struggle for justice for colleague, Stan Storimans, who was killed by a Russian missile. And crime journalist, Paul Vugts, who had only just resumed work after months in hiding due to death threats, announced that he would first write about those who had threatened him: ‘We must keep going, that is our security.’

Four extraordinary journalists received the Free Press Awards. The Newcomer of the Year -Hans Verploeg Award – went to the talented, young Nigerian journalist, Kemi Busari. He carried out undercover research, with which he exposed corruption by the Nigerian immigration services, among other things. And the Best Report Award went to the Dutch duo Mirjam van Biemen and Mijke van Wijk who, for their radio documentary, ‘Watchdog of the Forest’ followed green criminologist, Tim Boekhout van Solinge, in his fight against deforestation in the Amazon.

The Most Resilient Journalist Award went to Indian journalist Rana Ayyub. Despite the fact that she is constantly being harassed, online and offline and receiving death threats, she continues to investigate corruption and human rights violations. Ayyub investigated extrajudicial killings of Muslims in India and through her publications, had a minister put behind bars. Minister Blok aptly summed up the message behind the Awards: ‘A free society cannot exist without a free press. And a free press cannot exist without courageous journalists.’

Our organisation

Thanks to our choice of Supervisory Board model as our governance form, the directors also form the Executive Team (i.e. Board of Directors). This means they can operate quickly and flexibly. The Supervisory Board makes sure it does so carefully and effectively. The Supervisory Board is responsible for the Free Press Unlimited foundation.

Organisation structure

We at Free Press Unlimited attach great importance to the gathering and sharing of knowledge. Teams and departments can learn a lot from each other. In fact, their collected expertise is more than the sum of its parts, as is seen every year during our Free Press Unlimited days. Our organisation structure is designed for that: we are a network of five project teams and seven support departments that are closely linked with each other. This makes the (daily) exchange of information simple and attractive.


Of the five project teams, four are regionally oriented – Sudan & South Sudan, Syria/Eurasia, Fragile Africa and MENA (Middle East & North Africa) – and one global: Gender, Safety & Accountability. During the course of 2018, the Syria programme was added to the MENA team. The size of the teams ranges from 3.8 FTE (MENA) to 10 FTE in the large Sudan team, which also includes the staff of Radio Dabanga. Each project team has a team leader.

The 7 support departments are: Communications, Knowledge & Quality, Donor Relations, Finances, Human Resources, Office Management and Safety. The first four have a department head, the other departments are directly steered by the Executive Team.

Supervisory Board, Board of Directors and Management

The Supervisory Board is responsible for Free Press Unlimited. It monitors the performance of the organisation and intervenes if it feels it is necessary. The Supervisory Board is responsible for the overall strategy of the organisation and makes decisions on the basis of the annual budgets and reports. In its own report, it holds itself accountable for its activities in 2018. With 7 members, our Supervisory Board was always quite large; in 2018 we decided to have a smaller supervisory body of 5 members.

The Board of Directors of Free Press Unlimited consists of Leon Willems and Ruth Kronenburg. They also form the Executive Team: Leon is Managing Director and Ruth is Operational Director. This Executive Team conducts the daily policy and is accountable to the Supervisory Board. Its duties and responsibilities are set out in the Articles of Association of Free Press Unlimited and in a management regulations.

The annual gross remuneration of the Directors (in 2018: Leon Willems € 93.908 and Ruth Kronenburg € 92.781) is in line with the remuneration scheme for directors of Goede Doelen Nederland the Wijffels Code. The additional activities of the board members are directly related to their work for Free Press Unlimited. Leon Willems is special advisor to the Global Forum for Media Development. Ruth Kronenburg is a member of the advisory committee of Pro Bono Connect, a project of the Dutch Lawyers Committee for Human Rights and in 2018, she was appointed to the Supervisory Board of the Transnational Institute (TNI). They receive no compensation for this work.

Instead of a limited management team, since 2017, Free Press Unlimited has a strategic management meeting. This is a quarterly meeting of the directors, the team leaders and the department heads. All team leaders and coordinators meet every month. They discuss and coordinate operational matters that are important for the entire organisation and support each other as managers


Ideally, Free Press Unlimited wants its partners to pull their own weight (financially) as quickly as possible, on condition that they can run their organisation in a professional manner. To achieve this, Free Press Unlimited gives them the best guidance possible: customised and at a realistic pace, given the often difficult circumstances in which they operate. We are planning to make two of our big projects independent in the course of 2019.

Complaints procedure

Free Press Unlimited has a complaints procedure for its stakeholders, in compliance with the ISO 9001 standards.

Free Press Unlimited makes every effort to create a safe environment where everyone can express their concern or submit a complaint without fear of repercussions. ‘Everyone’ may includes staff members (see also our integrity policy), but also partners, donors, suppliers or advisors, for instance. In 2018, we greatly improved our complaints procedure, which naturally meets the ISO 9001 standard.

We work on the principles that we make sure it clear for everyone how the procedure works, that we protect people who submit a complaint and that we use the complaint to help us do a better job. To make our make our complaints procedure transparent and accessible, we developed an online complaint form in 2018, which we will put on the website early in 2019. A special complaints officer will deal with all the complaints according to a clear protocol.

In 2018, no complaints were received.


Free Press Unlimited asked and received a lot from its staff this year. Once again, the commitment was great and we can all be extremely satisfied with the results. At the end of the year, the Board of Directors offered all personnel and partners a special Christmas dinner, as thanks for their unbridled dedication, also in difficult times.

Personnel policy

The three pillars on which we based our new HR policy in 2016, are as relevant as ever:
1. Employees are the most important pillars of the organisation.
2. Free Press Unlimited wants to be an appealing employer.
3. Personnel policy must be properly implemented.

Together with the Knowledge & Quality team, the HR manager ensured personnel could develop and continue to learn. We keep the work appealing by offering the opportunity of finding another job within the organisation: we first post a vacancy internally for a week, and only post it externally after that if that hasn’t provided a good candidate. In addition, every employee can take paid refresher leave once every five years: three weeks holiday or six weeks for a course or study. In 2018, two people opted for a six-week leave.

To keep the HR processes clear for everyone, in 2018 we replaced the Legal Regulations with a Personnel Manual. With the same information, but now more readable and understandable. New employees receive an introduction booklet with practical information about Free Press Unlimited, are given an introduction course and are coupled with a colleague who acts as a buddy and guides them in the first three months.
Because we wondered whether the current evaluation system was still effective, we let loose our hackathon participants on it: can it be different, better? Many ideas emerged from that, and our HR manager is now working on them. In 2019, we will further explore the possibilities for a new system, together with an external agency.

In 2018, the number of FTE rose again, but not as remarkably as prior to 2017. At the end of 2018, Free Press Unlimited employed 70 people, who together filled 61.6 FTE (2017: 64 people and 56.1 FTE). During the year, we said goodbye to twelve colleagues, who were either looking for a new challenge, or whose contract was not renewed, and we welcomed fourteen new people.


The topics of diversity and inclusiveness invariably appear on the agenda of the Free Press Unlimited Days, our internal learning days. This year we wanted to go a step further: an external expert led our discussion on intercultural communication. After all, people of diverse nationalities and cultural backgrounds work for Free Press Unlimited. For that reason, the official language is usually English, so everyone can follow the discussion.

As an experiment, at the end of 2018 we took part in a survey on inclusiveness and diversity, carried out by research agency, Keystone. It was a great opportunity for us to pinpoint any possible problems within the organisation. Do people ever feel discriminated, and if so, in what way? Have they experienced nasty incidents and how do colleagues and the organisation deal with that? At the start of 2019, the (anonymously obtained of course) results were not known to Free Press Unlimited.

If we look at the male to female ratio, then Free Press Unlimited isn’t doing badly: the Board of Directors consists of one woman and one man and we have five female and four male managers. That is a reflection of the total distribution throughout the organisation, where 39 women and 31 men work. The age-groups at Free Press Unlimited are also approximately the same size: 23 employees are under 35-years-old, 26 are in the 35-50 age-group and 21 people are older.

Interns and volunteers

Once again this year, we were very pleased with the five volunteers who came to strengthen the Communications department. They wrote articles for our website and posts for social media, and assisted at events such as Free Press Live and Men4Women. The refreshing points of view and substantive contributions from our five interns were also very welcome. They worked as project assistants in the project teams and for the Communications department, where they were supervised by senior project staff.

Sick leave

The sick leave percentage rose significantly in 2018, from 1.83% to 3.36%, due to the long-term illness of two employees. Of course we make every effort to prevent people becoming ill. That is why, since the end of 2017, we have an in-house prevention officer who contributes to the daily safety and health at the office. We also invited and ergonomist from the Health and Safety inspection who gave advice on a proper work posture.

Integrity policy

We treat everyone with respect and do our work with integrity; behaviour that does not respect boundaries, and abuse of power are out of the question. These are a couple of important principles of Free Press Unlimited’s integrity policy. In recent years we have regulated parts of it very well; there is a procedure for whistleblowers, we have an external confidential advisor and our safety policy and risk management help us limit the risks, for the organisation and for individual employees. However, it can always be better and more current.

In 2018, we took huge steps towards a tightened and complete integrity policy, which will be introduced next year. We have expanded the internal and external complaints procedures and we are strengthening our fraud and corruption policy. Our Code of Conduct, dating from 2012, has been updated and, in addition to a description of standards and values, deals with the practical behaviour of employees. We will arrange internal workshops in 2019, in which we will actively work on this practical interpretation.

Education and training

The first pillar of our HR policy is reflected in our Continuous Professional Development Plan that we compile every year. It lists all the relevant training and courses that people can follow, either individually or in a team. This is how Free Press Unlimited works on the continuous development of its employees.

Employees share their own ideas for training. In 2018, some chose to take Arabian classes, others a course in time management and still others followed a training in how to write good project proposals. Teams work specifically on concrete proposals that they actually want to submit. Throughout the year, we offer training how to use our internal Wiki, Prezi online presentation tool, social media and secure e-mail via encrypted mail. Because the organisation is putting increasing demands on managers, in 2018 they received coaching in order to better lead their teams.

In January and September, we once again organised Free Press Unlimited days for the whole organisation. Everyone agrees that these ‘learning days’, on location and outside the office, are of great added value. We talked about diversity, the internal work culture, individual development and how to learn from your mistakes. We also presented the No News Is Bad News Midterm Review , discussed our 2018-2022 multi annual strategy and looked in depth at themes such as gender, safety and business models. People were so enthusiastic about these knowledge themes that workgroups will continue with them under guidance of our Knowledge & Quality team.

Confidential Advisor

Free Press Unlimited has an external confidential counselor, who is the point of contact for employees wishing to lodge a complaint about a problem they are unable to resolve with their immediate supervisor.

The Confidential Counselor is part of our more broad-based integrity policy that provides other options to employees to sound the alarm.

In 2018, the Confidential Advisor received three reports of unwanted conduct, a drop in relation to 2017 (five reports). In two cases it involved a combination of work-related issues and conduct dating back to 2017. Both reports were rounded off in 2018, under the supervision of the Confidential Counselor. This year, the Confidential Counselor received no official complaints of misconduct.

Works council

In 2018, the active members of the Free Press Unlimited Works Council, gave their stamp of approval for a number of important documents and procedures that are discussed elsewhere in this annual report.

They consulted their rank and file on the new Personnel Manual, which contains agreements about national holidays and days off, and played a decisive role in the agreements to announce job vacancies internally first. They also gave solicited and unsolicited advice on topics such as the whistleblowers scheme and other elements of the integrity policy. Integrity became a major issue at the start of 2018, when Oxfam came under attack because of sexual abuse by employees of Oxfam Great Britain. Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation, Kaag, wanted to hear from all development organisation what safeguards they had against this type of misconduct. In response, the Directors of Free Press Unlimited composed a letter, with input from the Works Council.

The Works Council meets twice a month, and in 2018 added a short update session to that (twice a week), to prevent issues remaining untreated for too long. They also meet once a quarter with the Board of Directors and in 2018, consulted twice with the HR The Works Council publishes its minutes visibly for everyone on our internal Wiki and receives regular input from its rank and file. During the year, two members left Free Press Unlimited; fortunately their vacancies were quickly filled and the new Works Council members were able to immediately take part in the first Works Council away day. Here, they determined the 2019 priorities: HR, policy and strategy, communication with the rank and file and organisational culture.

Knowledge, quality and continuity

The work of Free Press Unlimited is becoming increasingly dependent on thorough knowledge and research. How can we best achieve our goals, what can we learn from others and from our own projects? Also: on what topics should our policy influencing work focus? Then our Knowledge & Quality team plays a crucial role in our organisation. Also the management, and where possible the limitation, of risks that we run through our work, is crucial to our future resilience.

Knowledge & Quality

After we had presented the No News Is Bad News Midterm Review internally and to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, our Knowledge & Quality team energetically got to work with our research agenda. What are the major gaps in our knowledge and what methodologies are best suited to finding answers to our questions? We have now drawn up a research agenda for three themes: gender and media, financial independence and the watchdog role of journalists.

Take the Gender Research Agenda. Our main question for 2019 is: is it true that more gender equality on the work floor leads to higher revenues and a better competitive position of media? In short, we will examine the business case ‘gender equality’. We will also compare the impact of monitoring strategies for gender and media in DR Congo, Mali and Nepal. We are evaluating the GIP quality label (Gender, Independence and Professionalism) of our partner in Mali and the fellowship programmes for female leadership in Nigeria. Together with safety experts, we look at the specific (un)safety of female journalists and we investigate whether, and how, gender sensitive content and the attitude of the public is actually changing. We have drawn up a detailed research plan for each of these six research questions. Our Knowledge & Quality team can’t wait to start carrying out these plans.

Our evidence base was widened considerably in 2018. Since 2017, we have been collecting evidence in this database for our Theory of Change (ToC), like the strategies we thought up to achieve our three intermediate goals. It contains external publications, internal evaluations, case studies, stories from partners and much more. Each document helps us to continuously check: are we on the right track? Also, besides our own ideas, what else is on offer, what can we learn from others, inside and outside our own organisation, in terms of approach, focus or concrete goal, for example? Each document is accompanied by a brief description, keywords, countries and of course what part of the Theory of Change the publication supports, clarifies or slates.

Project management information system

PROMIS, the system we developed ourselves to manage projects, is as good as ready and will be launched in January 2019. This project management system is an example of internal innovation: after thorough, lengthy research into existing systems, we decided to build one ourselves. The result is very user-friendly and fully customised to Free Press Unlimited. Because the basis is our own Wiki, it will take our employees little effort to become familiar with PROMIS. PROMIS is many times cheaper than existing systems and in addition, it will also save a lot of time and irritation.

Quality management

Free Press Unlimited meets several recognised quality standards.

  • A version of ISO 9001 that applies specifically to the development sector. This is also called the Partos standard, after Partos, the Dutch association of development organisations. In April 2018, we were assessed for the new version, ISO 9001:2015, and reaped the benefits of our thorough preparations for this audit. The external audit team concluded that we met all the demands, and we are now in possession of the most recent ISO certificate.
  • Free Press Unlimited is a Recognised Charity. In 2016, this quality label replaced the old CBF quality label and is the initiative of cooperating quality label organisations such as CBF and Charity Netherlands. In 2018, Free Press Unlimited once again met the strict standards of this quality label.
  • Free Press Unlimited reports on the projects in the Strategic Partnership in accordance with the standards of the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI). However, there is an agreement that we do not publish data that might endanger people and organisations. We have recorded what we do and do not make public in a special Exclusion Policy.
    Free Press Unlimited has drawn up its own code of conduct to which all employees must adhere. Moreover, as a member of Partos and Charity Netherlands we abide by their codes of conduct.

Risk management

Free Press Unlimited works in a complex and dynamic environment. Some risks are inherent to our work, such as partners who are not (yet) able to properly execute a project, or working in conflict areas.

Indeed, part of our work consists of building the capacities of (starting) media organisations, and we work extensively in conflict areas. Despite this increased readiness to take risk, it is extremely important that we recognise the risks at different levels in the organisation and deal with them appropriately. In 2018, we integrated risk management at every level of the organisation. Our risk management is based on the international ISO 31000 standards.

Risk levels

Free Press Unlimited is a project organisation and risks are associated with of projects. That certainly applies to the sector in which we work and the hostile environment in which our partners operate. We distinguish four different risk levels:

  1. At organisational level: we have ranked the potential internal and external risks in our risk register. For every risk there are risk limiting measures that we monitor closely. Every year we renew this register and once every two years we make an update.
  2. At process level: we determine the risks and risk limiting measures during the annual planning and report cycle. When assessing process risks we describe the risks that may have a major (unexpected) impact on the core processes of Free Press Unlimited, and the associated risk limiting measures.
  3. At project level: a risk assessment is mandatory for all our projects and is part of the annual work plans. The emphasis here lies on the internal and external risks, including risk limiting measures.
  4. At individual level: every new employee who has to travel for his or her work, receives a safety training, safety instructions and debriefing. Furthermore, we monitor the security situation in our project countries. After all, we work in fragile and conflict areas where people may run great risks; the safety of our employees is paramount.

In the table below, we have listed the most important risks, how likely they are, what the consequences are and what measures we take to prevent these risks. This table is in line with the new RJ650 guideline, among other things.

  Threat Measure Opportunity Impact
Continuity of the organisation Funding of media projects becomes more difficult through the decreased attention (also from donors) for press freedom, human rights etc. Active policy influencing via GFMD for Sustainable Development Goal ‘access to information’.
Active policy influencing for media development at Eu and Dutch politics.
Actively search for alternative funding.


Reputation Threat of damage to reputation Free Press Unlimited due to poor project execution or negative reporting about projects / in crisis situations. Compliance with and regular monitoring of project procedures.
Crisis management plan is integrated in organisation and management is trained. Managers followed a media training.


Fraud Fraud or other false information is discovered during the performance of a project. Compliance with project procedures, incl. financial controls, location visits, limit sub-grants (1 year), sanctions. Probable Minor
Integrity Employees and freelancers (trainers, consultants) do not comply with the Code of Conduct and misbehave. The Code of Conduct is part of contracts. Free Press Unlimited has an ISO-complaints mechanism and a confidential advisor. Possible Limited
Digital safety By hacks, phishing, spying or unsecured digital communication privacy sensitive information that may endanger people’s lives is leaked. Digital environment is outsourced to specialised IT-host
Regular training of employees. Security policy is part of the general safety policy.
Probable Limited
Conflict areas The country where we are carrying out one or more projects becomes too instable, forcing us to suspend activities. Context analysis prior to carrying out project, so that risks are known. In case of an unexpected crisis, contact donor immediately and inform partner of steps (closure, hibernation). Probable Minor
Compliance Free Press Unlimited or partner do not or insufficiently meet the agreements with the donor during the performance of a project, resulting in damage to the finances and/or reputation of Free Press Unlimited. Finance checks all the demands prior to project submission and the reports during project performance.
Compliance with donor demands is part of the start-up procedure.
Possible Limited
Finance Insufficient financial control over local offices.  Annual financial checklist, continuous monitoring of local financial reports by Free Press Unlimited. Regular contact and coordination with local financial staff. Pay advances monthly. Unlikely Limited



Free Press Unlimited tries to reduce its carbon footprint as much as possible:

  • We encourage travelling by public transport and working from home.
  • We purchase green energy from renewable sources, i.e. solar and wind.
  • We compensate our air travel through sustainable power projects of the Climate Neutral Group: biogas plants in Cambodia, Kenya and Tanzania. This CO2 emission was considerably higher than in 2017, partly because we made more short flights; the emission is relatively higher. In 2019, we aim to use the train for travel within Europe.
  • Our paper consumption in 2018 remained stable, despite the increase in the number of employees. We use 50% recycled paper with the European Ecolabel. What helps, is that we digitally share almost all the internal information and revise it through our Wiki.
  • If we buy products, installations or services, we choose the most sustainable and greenest variant where possible.


Free Press Unlimited tries to reduce its carbon footprint as much as possible:

  • We encourage travelling by public transport and working from home.
  • We purchase green energy from renewable sources, i.e. solar and wind.
  • We compensate our air travel through sustainable power projects of the Climate Neutral Group: biogas plants in Cambodia, Kenya and Tanzania. This CO2 emission was considerably higher than in 2017, partly because we made more short flights; the emission is relatively higher. In 2019, we aim to use the train for travel within Europe.
  • Our paper consumption in 2018 remained stable, despite the increase in the number of employees. We use 50% recycled paper with the European Ecolabel. What helps, is that we digitally share almost all the internal information and revise it through our Wiki.
  • If we buy products, installations or services, we choose the most sustainable and greenest variant where possible.