Simon Kelner

Simon Kelner, former editor of the Independent and Evening Standard, is the founding chief executive of the Journalism Foundation

A new non-profit foundation "which promotes, develops and sustains free and independent journalism" was launched today under the leadership of former editor of the Independent Simon Kelner and supported by the Lebedev family, owner of the Independent and Evening Standard.

In a release today it was announced that the new Journalism Foundation would start by running two initiatives, including a series of training courses aimed at Tunisian reporters "teaching local journalists how to report in a free and open society".

JF Centre in Tunisia
The JF Centre in Tunisia

The second initial project is focused on a UK-based initiative, with the foundation to offer support to Pits n Pots, a political news site for Stoke-on-Trent, "with the aim of bolstering public engagement in the area".

In a post on the local site Mike Rawlins of Pits n Pots said the backing will enable him to "do three things".

"First, I am hoping to investigate ways for Pits n Pots to become a more sustainable public service business model while improving the awareness and reach of the site. Second, I will be looking to find ways to promote better democratic, popular engagement across sections of the population who have not traditionally been engaged with democracy. Finally, I will hope to use the Journalism Foundation’s support to create a template that can be used by active democratically engaged people across the country."

Outlining its ambitions on its own website the Journalism Foundation says these include providing funding to projects "whose purpose is to bolster democracy at a local or national level" and backing of investigative journalism and journalists "in countries where press freedom has been an alien concept".

The foundation adds that it will also offer grants to projects focused on community journalism and operate an annual award.

Kelner, who stepped down as editor-in-chief of the Independent and sister title i in August, a month after being replaced as editor, is the founding chief executive of the foundation. In a statement he said the organisation "will show that journalism can be a force for good by supporting initiatives that have a direct and positive effect on people's lives".

According to the release, Evgeny Lebedev, who is chairman of the Independent and the Evening Standard, will chair the foundation's board of trustees.

"At a time when, quite rightly, a light is being shone on malpractice in some areas of the British press, I am delighted to give my backing to an initiative whose purpose is to demonstrate the positive aspects of journalism," he said in the release.

"Free speech has always been a touchstone issue for me, and an organisation intent on giving people around the world a voice is worthy of widespread support."

Last year Lebedev spoke about his goal of setting up a foundation to fund investigative journalism in an interview for the Sunday Times, saying at the time he wanted to see the "biggest titles around the world ... pool resources to uncover the schemes and money flows used to sustain massive corruption".

On its launch today the foundation added that it is keen to hear from projects it may like to back, as well as "new partners to help fund those projects".

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