General Assembly - Tirana 2021
On 30 September 2021 GFMD hosted its quadrennial General Assembly in Tirana, Albania.
Due to travel restrictions, the Secretariat organised an in-person meeting of just over 20 representatives of GFMD general members in Tirana, Albania, which was combined with a hybrid online General Assembly for all members.
The outgoing Chair:
- Reminded members that they had voted at GFMD’s 15-year anniversary celebration last year to postpone the General Assembly until at least some members were able to meet in person.
- Thanked the Albanian Media Institute, especially its Director, outgoing Steering Committee member Remzi Lani, for helping organise the General Assembly in Tirana.
- Reported that GFMD is in better shape to contribute to overcoming the challenges faced by the sector, highlighting four main improvements over the last five years; financial stability; providing better services to our members; a more solid Secretariat – “We have a staff of 9 wonderful professionals from different parts of the world”; and finally, that GFMD is more influential in the sector.
- Thanked the outgoing Steering Committee and Jaime Abello, General Director of the Fundacion Gabo for their support over the last five years.
The GFMD Executive Director:
- Outlined the trends that are not working in favour of professional journalism; lack of international development and international cooperation; securitised responses to multiple crises; freedom of expression and media freedom is often an add on, an afterthought and not human rights by design.
- Explained that GFMD’s response has been to make the case as to why investing in journalism and media is important.
- Warned of the challenges in the digital sphere, where small, non-profit, community, investigative, and similar newsrooms and media are not recognised by the system and have experienced removal of their content and accounts.
- Expressed caution that while the media development and journalism support community have an extraordinary track record in freedom of expression policy and advocacy, there are very few organisations that have the resources and expertise to be effective in media and journalism sustainability policy areas as there is a resource, knowledge, and expertise gap.
- Called for more global voices bringing information, evidence, and local solutions to these debates.
- Thanked members for their dedication and loyalty to GFMD; seeing value in information and knowledge exchange, policy and decision-making support, and networking;
- Highlighted the three most challenging issues identified about the media support sector in general; securing funding; working in environments hostile to independent journalism; an inability to diversify revenue.
- Explained how members could contribute to GFMD’s 5-year strategy by using the spaces GFMD has created to talk, share knowledge and experiences, and act together.
“As we go forward every organisation and every project in our network should think about contributing to securing the future of journalism, with less competition and more working together.This means that without policies that envisage new public funding, regulation of digital markets, and enhanced international support systems for non-profit media, independent professional journalism is in danger of becoming an expensive luxury rather than a universal public good.Over the last five years, GFMD members, Steering Committee, our Secretariat team with generous support from our partners have succeeded in making GFMD a trusted partner and strong organisation.”
Special thanks and mention was given to:
- Joyce Barnathan – outgoing president of the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ) and Chair of GFMD from 2008-2012.
- Mark Nelson – outgoing senior director at the Centre for International Media Assistance (CIMA)
The Chair confirmed:
That the voting Commission – himself, Mira Milosevic, and Remzi Lani – had met to verify the results.
Out of GFMD’s 103 members, 81 were up to date on their fees and eligible to vote. Of those, 60 general members voted.
The votes were cast anonymously and there was no possibility of any member being able to cast more than one vote.
The new Constitution was approved by over 96% of general members.
As this exceeded the two-thirds threshold outlined in the previous GFMD constitution, the Chair declared the new Constitution adopted, adding:
“I hope that you will all agree that the new constitution will make GFMD a much more efficient and effective organisation but also makes our Steering Committee more representative and diverse and therefore better able to work on behalf of the sector.”
The General Assembly also agreed:
The Steering Committee and Executive Committee will be registered in Belgium as Administrators of GFMD.
That the new constitution, once reviewed by GFMD’s lawyers, will be registered as the organisation’s new statute.
The Executive Director:
- Informed the General Assembly of a new Belgium law that regulates the operations of companies and also of associations from both local and international that was adopted in 2019 and is coming into force gradually. As GFMD is registered in Brussels this new law requires all general members to meet once per year to adopt both activity and financial reports but also to approve the choice of auditor for the financial audit;
- Gave notice that when the Secretariat shares the meeting report from the General Assembly, members will also be sent information about the two auditors that GFMD has been using over the last two years. With one of them put forward for General members to approve to audit GFMD’s 2021 accounts;
The GFMD Secretariat has used two auditors in recent years:
VRC REGISTERED AUDITORS
West Point Park, 't Hofveld 6 C3, 1702 Groot-Bijgaarden
Auditor - Yves Christiaen
CHRISTIAN MISSANTE SRL
Avenue du Martin Pecheur, 56 bte 26 - 1170 Watermael-Boitsfort, RPM Bruxelles
Auditor - Christian Missante
The GFMD Secretariat would like to put forward CHRISTIAN MISSANTE SRL to audit GFMD accounts for the current financial year.
- Noted that annual General Assembly meetings will take place online, with every fourth taking place in person unless the Steering Committee decides that circumstances allow for more frequent in-person meetings.
For details of the voting process and the key changes in the new Constitution see:
GFMD’s full activity reports were shared ahead of the meeting and can be downloaded on the Annual activity reports page.
The GFMD Executive Director presented brief highlights from the 2016-2021 period.
Members of the GFMD Secretariat gave an in-depth briefing of activities and achievements.
- Fiona Nzingo – Membership and Engagement Manager – who spoke about the GFMD's recruitment and retention of members: https://gfmd.info/members/
- Anne Marie Hammer – Programmes and Project Manager – who spoke about the launch of the GFMD MediaDev Fundraising Guide https://fundraising-guide.gfmd.info/
- Ivana Bjelic Vucinic – Programmes and Project Manager – who spoke about GFMD's coordination activities in Lebanon and elsewhere https://coordination.gfmd.info/
- Tom Law – Head of Policy and Learning – who spoke about the launch of the International Media Policy and Advisory Centre (GFMD IMPACT): https://impact.gfmd.info/
- Biba Klomp – International Partnerships Manager – who spoke about the results of a network analysis of GFMD's membership: https://strategy.gfmd.info/planning/network-analysis
- Olga Komorova – Communications Manager – who spoke about improvements to GFMD's communications including the launch of the new GFMD website: https://gfmd.info/
Full financial reports were made available ahead of the meeting and downloaded on the Annual financial reports page.
GFMD Finance Manager, Klea Trbovic Zivkovic, informed the meeting that over the past five years, GFMD has received core and programmatic grants from institutional and private donors for specific activities including from; the National Endowment for Democracy (NED); Open Society Foundations (OSF); Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC); UK Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (UK FCDO); International Media Support (IMS); Free Press Unlimited (FPU); DW Akademie; UNESCO; and BBC Media Action (BBC MA).
The Executive Director:
Reported that the Steering Committee has approved GFMD’s financial reports and audits over the last four years.
Noted that GFMD was in negative equity in 2017 and 2018 but with careful collaboration between GFMD’s members and partners and financial support from some members such as Free Press Unlimited, the organisation is in a good position administratively, programmatically, and financially.
Explained that GFMD now has a diverse revenue stream. As well as programmatic and core support from donors and funders, membership fees provide between 35 to 38% of GFMD’s revenues.
“And this is really important to make us a credible partner and also to have some independence and do things that are sometimes urgent, but we don't have funding for them. As we progress, we will think about how to diversify the revenue stream even further and to work with both members and partners to make GFMD an even more strong and stable organization.”
Predicted that the GFMD Secretariat will not grow much larger than it is.
“We are planning to provide better conditions for our staff that have been with us for more than two years, too, also invest more in the capacity of our members around the world to join us in doing joint policy and advocacy."
Jan Lublinski, Head of Department, Policy and Learning, Deutsche Welle Akademie:
“I think this presentation of Mira and the team she's built is quite impressive because it has shown what GFMD can do with the content work that we needed to do. And it can do it on many different domains. [...] The fact that this team is active and [...] dealing with all these things is quite an extraordinary achievement of Mira but also of her team.”
Jesper Højberg, Executive Director, International Media Support (IMS):
“It is important to discuss priorities [...] because the team is not big. [...] It's actually overwhelming how much you have been able to achieve. So, of course, all praise for that. But I think when we look forward to having an impact on some of these very, very complex issues that you also brought up Mira so well, I think we need to discuss what it is that we expect from the Secretariat. [...] I don't think we should leave without having somehow clarified some of those key priorities that will allow us, all of us in particular the Secretariat, to not end up being overstretched.”
Ricardo Corredor, Outgoing Chairperson of GFMD:
“I hope you agree with me that this team deserves a great round of applause for all the work they've done.
The GFMD activity reports and GFMD financial reports were both adopted by general members present in Tirana and those who attended via Zoom.
It was noted that the adoption and approval of the audit was provisional to allow members unable to attend in person or by Zoom to vote. Recordings of the presentations will be shared with all members on 11th October. The final deadline for objections and/or questions and voting will be 22nd October.
Tom Law from the GFMD Secretariat explained the nomination and voting process:
2 Aug. - 10 Sept. – Members were invited to submit their candidacy for the Steering Committee.
21 - 28 Sept. – A full list of candidates for the Steering Committee was shared with the CEO, Director or designated GFMD representative of each general member with a secure link that tracked who had voted but not who they had voted for.
29 Sept. – The voting commission met to verify that the votes have been cast and counted fairly.
The outgoing Chairperson Ricardo Corredor informed the meeting that:
Out of GFMD’s 103 general members, 81 were eligible to cast a vote (as per the Constitution, only members who are up to date on membership fees are able to vote at the General Assembly).
60 votes were cast. There were no invalid votes.
The outgoing Chairperson Ricardo Corredor announced the duly elected members of the new Steering Committee.
- Ayman Mhanna, Executive Director, Samir Kassir Foundation - SKeyes Center for Media and Cultural Freedom
The outgoing Chair thanked all those who had put themselves forward as a candidate.
“It is really heartening to see such enthusiasm for the work of GFMD and your willingness to contribute to the future of our network. I am sure that we will find constructive ways to engage you all in our work over the next few years.It is also very welcome to see that 8 of the 17 members are women. This is a vast improvement from the 5 out 19 women who served on the previous Steering Committee.”
The GFMD Executive Director extended “warm congratulations to the members of our new steering committee. All of us at the Secretariat are really looking forward to working with you.”
Tributes were paid to Ricardo Corredor, Outgoing Chairperson of GFMD by Mira Milosevic, Ayman Mhanna, and Jaime Abello.
The Chair brought the 2021 GFMD General Assembly to close.
-- ENDS --
The announcement of the new Steering Committee marked the official end of the GFMD General Assembly.
All members were invited to attend the first meeting of the new GFMD Steering Committee which was held following a short break in proceedings.
The first meeting of the new GFMD Steering Committee voted for a new Chairperson, Deputy Chairperson and Treasurer.