Who are we?
The Finnish Foundation for Media and Development (known by its Finnish acronym ’Vikes’) is a journalists’ solidarity organization devoted to strengthening democracy and active civil society by supporting freedom of expression, quality journalism and media diversity around the world. Through us, Finnish journalists support their colleagues in other countries and form equal, cooperative relationships for mutual learning.
Vikes is the only Finnish development cooperation organization specialized in freedom of expression and media. We feel that this role is crucial in a world where independence and diversity of media is threatened and press freedom as well as the civic space are constantly shrinking.
Most of Vikes funding comes from the development budgets of the EU and the Finnish Foreign Ministry. Donations from private foundations, individuals and private companies are also crucial in sustaining our activities.
What do we do?
Our main tool for strengthening the freedom of expression is training targeting journalists, media workers and other relevant stakeholders such as state officials. Our training programs aim to increase the quality of journalism through improved professional skill, techniques and ethics.
We are also working for an improved safety of journalists and media workers by equipping them with practical know-how in carrying out their work in tough conditions. We also train other people in the media field, e.g. filmmakers and communication officers to ensure that there are diverse sources of information available for citizens and decision makers.
In all our projects we work in co-operation with local partners, who range from journalists’ unions to media houses and civil society organizations. The direct beneficiaries are always journalists and media professionals who have the power to make sure that also the voiceless will be heard in public discussion.
Where do we work?
Vikes has many projects in various countries. Click to expand.
Support to freedom of expression and media in Somalia
Vikes trains journalists and authorities and supports freedom of expression and media in Somalia. The aim of the project is to promote peaceful progress towards the rule of law by increasing citizens’ access to information.
Somalia is recovering from more than 20 years of civil war, during which the media and its operating conditions were also destroyed. Today, Somali media is lively, but with many challenges: lack of training, poor salaries and difficult conditions, lack of professionalism among journalists and insufficient knowledge of the ethical principles of the media.
Somalia is still one of the most dangerous countries in the world to be a journalist, and journalists are often victims of corruption and exploitation. The media is very masculine and women face all kinds of discrimination.
Vikes has been working in Somalia with the local journalists’ union FESOJ, the Ministry of Communications and the Somali National Television since 2014.
- Developing the production routines and quality of programs for national broadcasters.
- Improving working conditions and awareness of journalists about security risks and their prevention.
- Improving the professional skills of women journalists and their position in the workplace.
- Training journalists and authorities across the country on labour law, practical editorial work, labour rights and professional ethics.
The evaluation of the first phase of the project identified Vikes as a unique player in the Somali media development field. The final evaluation of a EU-funded project said that activities have been very relevant and the work of Vikes and its partners has enhaced the quality of media in Somalia. Both evaluations are in Issuu.com.
Support to community media in East Africa
There are more than 30 community radio stations in Tanzania, and together they form the largest media in the country. Partners of Vikes have joined forces and created an online radio platform. Increased cooperation among the radio stations will widen their audience and give more voice to the rural communities. The project started in Tanzania, and has spread into Kenya and Uganda as well.
Vikes is supporting TADIO, the national umbrella organization of Tanzanian community radio stations, in building an online platform for community radio stations and offering trainings for radio stations in the use of the platform. A similar platform is being built in Uganda.
We also aim to improve the sustainability of Jamii FM, a community radio in Mtwara in southern Tanzania reaching a coverage area with almost one million listeners. Jamii FM is a long-time partner of Vikes. Over the next few years, we try to help the radio to stand on its own feet. A professional radio station needs functioning equipment, reliable power supply and enough funds to maintain the daily operations – running costs must be managed and there must be fuel for the motorcycles so the journalists can go even to more remote villages to report their stories.
The long-term goal is to contribute to a more open, inclusive and democratic societies in East Africa by improving the efficiency of community media. Rural communities are expected to get their voices better heard. Civil society organizations, government institutions and commercial actors can also make use of the new online platform to reach rural audiences – and at the same time generate income to community radio stations across the countries so they can better sustain their operations.
Support to independent media in Nicaragua and Central America
Courageous journalists are doing their best in dangerous situations. However, the conditions in many countries are very difficult. Vikes supports the independence and quality of the media and creates links between the media and civil society.
Central America is one of the worst areas to be a journalist: violence and attacks on journalists are widespread and new draconian legislation is written regularly. This leads not only to censorship but also to self-censorship. In many countries, media and civil society legislation is very strict and cooperation between organizations and the media is not working as well as it could. All this makes it more difficult for citizens to have access to transparent and objective information.
In spite of these problems, the region is also producing quality journalism, which is gaining international attention.
The main objective of Vikes and local partners is to improve citizens’ access to information in El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua. The project supports and improves the capacity of independent and diverse media and civil society. In the long term, this will strengthen democracy.
In practice, we focus on three approaches:
- Supporting independent media and NGOs to acquire the necessary skills and competences to increase their self-sufficiency and reduce their dependence on external funding.
- Supporting networking and co-operation between independent media, journalists and NGOs. At the same time, up-to-date training on risk management is provided.
- Training in production of high quality content utilizing research methods. In particular, support will be given to investigative articles which bring new perspectives and information to the public debate and which reach a wide audience.
In Nepal and Tanzania it is difficult to be a journalist if you are a woman. Vikes and local partners strengthen together the position of women journalists and their journalistic skills. Ultimately, more people who consume media will benefit from more diverse journalism.
Workplace discrimination, unequal salaries and sexual harassment are commonplace among female journalists around the world. It is also difficult for women to get a job as a journalist at all: 73% of media house management and 64% of journalists are men.
Vikes has a women’s journalist support project in Nepal and Tanzania, where these worrying trends are clearly visible. Harassment, pay differences, and credibility issues affect the work of women reporters and the kinds of articles they can write.
The project addresses problems by focusing on three target groups: female journalists, their male colleagues, and media house management. The way the project works is a new kind of experiment for Vikes to work together in two very different countries on common goals.
The long-term expected results of the project are:
- The management of media houses in Nepal and Tanzania are committed to promoting gender equality and decent working conditions for women journalists. In addition, they introduce an equality plan in their newsrooms.
- Female journalists have sufficient journalistic skills.
- Female journalists have improved their self-esteem and dare to take an active role as editorial staff.
- Male journalists have become more aware of gender equality and are motivated to implement the equality plan.
- Media organizations are in a better position to improve equality between journalists and thus strengthen multi-media and civil society activities.
In practice, journalists are trained and mentored, gender policies are promoted, and civil society capacity is strengthened in various ways.
By changing the role of female journalists, the project also has a wider impact on the content of journalism: studies show that female journalists do their work differently from male journalists, including in terms of sources, stories, and style. Better gender equality in media houses will also lead to more diverse and higher quality journalism.
The project partners are strong media organizations in Nepal (CIJ Center for Investigative Journalism) and Tanzania (TAMWA, MISA and MCT). These organizations have extensive networks and years of experience in promoting media development and freedom of expression.
Enhancing and diversifying understanding on migration in Europe
I am European – a project funded by the EU – brings about different aspects of immigration, provides reliable information on the subject and trains young journalists in creating diverse journalism about migration. The project aims at a more open and tolerant attitude towards immigrants and refugees.
The web and social media are full of information about immigration, but in a jumble of opinions and facts, it is difficult to discern what is ultimately true and what is not. Interpreting public debate requires knowledge and the ability to read critically different kinds of media.
This project works simultaneously in eight European countries: In addition to Finland, also Estonia, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, Germany, Latvia and Lithuania.
The project will increase young people’s understanding of the various aspects of global migration, strengthen their empathy and provide a critical appraisal of information from different sources. The goal is that growing understanding leads to action to increase tolerance.
Some of the project activities are implemented at national level, some – like the social media campaign for young people – in all project countries.
Among other things, we aim to diversify media content on immigration by training young journalists from Finland, other countries and the global south. Young journalists will also be offered study trips to destinations of interest, and scholarships will be offered to carry out exploratory articles on the topic.
The project will host debates and events around Finland, produce videos presenting the stories of immigrant youth, and capitalize on the opportunities created by augmented reality and virtual reality. The project will also provide a toolkit for educators working with young people, which will include information on migration, as well as materials and tips on how to deal with the topic.
Yangon Film School has been operating for more than a decade with the support of international donors. Now is the time to create an independent, national film school.
Yangon Film School was established in 2005, at a time when Myanmar was still strictly controlled by the military junta. Vikes has been one of the school’s international supporters from the start. At the same time, we have been able to contribute to the strengthening of freedom of expression and independent journalism, which have been slowly recovering since the transition from military to civilian rule in 2011.
The award winning school is now entering a new phase. Until now, both the administration of the school and most of the education have been managed by foreign experts, but now both areas are being transferred to local hands.
- Strengthening the administrative capacity of the Yangon Film Foundation, which runs the school.
- Both local teachers and film school graduate students will be trained as trainers. The aim is to train at least six teachers and ten students, who will in the future act as trainers in the film school.
- Supporting the school’s alumni activities, as the film school alumni network plays an important role in the development of the film and media industry throughout the country. The goal is to have at least 60 film school alumni working in Myanmar’s media and development sectors in the next few years.
In order to help the film school to strengthen Myanmar’s civil society as much as possible and to give voice to the silent, Vikes also supports the following objectives:
- All Myanmarians have equal access to film school, which means that more students from different ethnic backgrounds will be involved in the future. The aim is that at least one third of the graduates are from groups other than the Bamar population.
- The opportunities for women to advance in the media sector will be enhanced. Equality is promoted, for example, by ensuring a fair share of women in courses and by making more films about women. The goal is to have half of the filmmakers graduating from school being women.
- Student Documentaries cover Myanmar society in many ways and also tell about school activities. The aim is for the school to make at least 15 films on current social themes, 7 films on school education and 6 inclusive videos to be produced in partnership with marginalized communities.
Training of journalism students on sustainable development in Finland
Freedom of expression and democracy are important facets of sustainable development. Vikes and Maailma.net will train media students in these subjects, and produce stories as well.
Vikes and the news site Maailma.net have a joint project that aims to increase the knowledge of students of journalism and media in universities of applied sciences about the freedom of expression and democracy as issues of sustainable development. The aim is also to increase the coverage of these topics in the media.
The primary target group are the students in Turku and Metropolia Universities of Applied Sciences. The course ”The media as a promoter of sustainable development, freedom of expression and democracy” is organized in both universities, and it consists of lectures on sustainable development and journalistic workshops where students produce multimedia content for Maailma.net.
Based on the themes of the course, a seminar open to the public will also be organized in the autumn of 2022.
Another target group of the project is the general public interested in societal issues and online journalism, which will be reached through the media content produced by the students.
Through innovative media content, public awareness is increased, e.g. on the role of freedom of expression and democracy in promoting sustainable development and the situation of freedom of expression and democracy in developing countries. The aim is to increase public awareness that the challenges are global and affect everyone, and to strengthen their engagement to defend freedom of expression and democracy as part of sustainable development.
There is a need for such information. According to a survey by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland, less than half of Finns have heard about Agenda 2030. The need for this project also arises from the global crisis of democracy.
The number of democracies has increased but their quality has decreased. The suppression of media freedom has become more common. However, when this topic is being covered in the media, it is often forgotten that this phenomenon is global and that freedom of expression and democracy are not only values as themselves, but also a prerequisite for sustainable development.
The Finnish Foundation for Media and Development (Vikes)
The Finnish Foundation for Media and Development (Vikes) is based in Helsinki, close to Hakaniemi Market Square.
Street address: Siltasaarenkatu 16
Visiting address: Säästöpankinranta 2 A, 7th floor
Postal address: PL 252, 00531 Helsinki
Phone: (+358) 040 411 0576
Business ID: 1950052-3
Danske Bank: FI27 8000 1471 3503 07
Fundraising permit RA/2022/39, valid from 1st February 2022 onwards.
Coordinators and Specialists
Journalist and Project Coordinator
(Nigeria, Somalia ja Tanzania)
(I Am European)
Journalist and Project Specialist
Journalist and Project Specialist (ext.)
Project Specialist (ext.)