New project launches in Southeast Asia, leveraging successful locally led journalism model to promote accountability and strengthen democracy

February 7, 2024
Panelists from AIR Network/USAID discuss building a network of journalists.
Panelists share their expertise building a network of journalists. Photo credit: USAID.

Shrinking press freedoms across Southeast Asia have created significant challenges for journalists and their ability to safely and sustainably investigate issues critical to their communities. The region is also under-represented within the investigative journalism community of practice, with only seven of 244 member organizations in the Global Investigative Network working on cross-border investigative reporting.  

To combat these challenges, Pact and USAID launched a new program, Empowering the Truth Tellers – Asia Investigative Reporting (AIR) Network, on January 9, 2024, at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand, to support regional journalism, amplifying its potential to expose abuses of power, fight corruption, foster transparency, promote accountability and strengthen democracy. 

Steven G. Olive, the Mission Director for USAID’s Regional Development Mission for Asia, states, “we are thrilled to be launching this new program to raise awareness of the harms that criminality brings upon society, resulting in a public that is more informed to respond to transnational organized crime and corruption.”  

This new five-year, $10 million project will be implemented by Pact in conjunction with the International Center for Journalists under the Civil Society and Media – Strengthened Together and Advancing in New Directions (CSM-STAND) project.  

Milica Panic, Pact’s Chief of Party for CSM-STAND highlights, “this new project will work with media and civic actors to spur a greater regional synergy and overcome challenges to journalists’ ability to safely investigate, publish and amplify stories that will increase citizens’ access to information about topics important for transparent governance.” 

The AIR Network will connect investigative journalists to local stakeholders in at least six Southeast Asian countries. The model leverages USAID’s experience from successfully supporting locally led journalism initiatives in Europe, Eurasia, Latin America and the Caribbean.  

The project will support and strengthen a locally led investigative reporting network, enhance audience engagement through relevant information channels, and advance a more proactive and comprehensive approach to safety and security. The anticipated aims of the project include creating trust-based, cross-border collaboration, increased impact of reporting, diversified access to leadership opportunities and new security and risk mitigation measures. 

Since 2021, Pact has led the CSM-STAND regional programs funded by USAID, along with IREX and a consortium of organizations. The programs aim to strengthen independent media and civil society around the world.  

For more information on the AIR Network please see the factsheet.