Patrice Schneider: ‘87% of the world’s population live in countries without free press.’


The Media Development Investment Fund (MDIF) invests in independent media around the world providing the news, information and debate that people need to build free, thriving societies.

Patrice Schneider, Chief Strategy Officer of MDIF explains: ‘The problems regarding independency of media in 1944 in the Netherlands, are present right now in countries like Zimbabwe and Guatemala. MDIF invests in companies in these countries where access to free and independent media is under threat. Timely, accurate, relevant information is critical to free societies. It enables fuller participation in public life, holds the people in power accountable and protects the rights of the individual.’

MDIF and the Democracy and Media Foundation have been working together closely for over 10 years. One the one hand the support given received by MDIF by the DMF enables them to invest in independent media. On the other hand the MDIF can play an active role in those countries where the DMF cannot be present.

MDIF’s financial investments include affordable loans, equity investments, loan guarantees and technical assistance grants. Additionally, MDIF activates other investors to maximize the impact of its financing. MDIF seeks to establish long-term relationships with its clients by providing advice and assistance in business planning, media management and other technical support.

Expanding their clients’ reach is central to both MDIF’s financial and mission objectives. Schneider: ‘In mission terms, increased reach means that more individuals have access to independent news. In financial terms, audience growth is critical to the sustainability of our clients. Larger audiences translate directly into higher advertising revenue and greater sales opportunities.’

Those opposing free expression also understand the importance of reach and use a range of strategies to shrink the audiences of independent media outlets. MDIF’s clients have had their equipment seized, websites shuttered, and editorial integrity slandered by hostile governments.

A journalist from Africa explains why MDIF’s support is necessary: Because of our reporting, militias threatened major local businesses that advertise with us. Many give in to the pressure and stopped placing ads with us. Through the financial support of MDIF, we are able to continue our work.’

Last year, more than 60.9 million people around the world got their news from an MDIF client, 23.1 million through digital media and 37.8 million through traditional media. Each dollar invested by MDIF leveraged $1.46 in client sales. 78% of MDIF clients exposed corruption scandals in their country and 89% of clients held governments accountable for their policy promises.

‘Everyone should know that more than 6.5 billion people – 87% of the world’s population – live in countries without a free press.’

‘The courage of the people we support has inspired me tremendously. Everyone is talking about fake news lately. In the countries where MDIF is active, people have been dealing with fake news for decades. Now, it’s our turn to deal with fake news, but they have been doing this for many years.’

‘There are two things people can do: The first is being increasingly critical with regards to the information you read. You should maintain a critical eye. The second is to think about directly investing in MDIF.’