Independent media, open communication and community empowerment are what the nonprofit Internews Network strives to create — largely with the help of the U.S. government.
Since the early 1990s, Internews has been working to develop autonomous media outlets and fair media laws in more than 70 countries. In 23 countries the organization now has offices, most run by journalists native to the region in which they are working. The organization has given training to tens of thousands of journalists on issues such as diverse news coverage, media production techniques and the importance of government accountability.
Though Internews is an organization that promotes an independent press, its own autonomy is an issue it "wrestles with all the time," said Annette Makino, the organization's senior vice president for communications. The vast majority of Internews' efforts are bankrolled by the U.S. Agency for International Development and other federal sources.
Internews' donors over the years have included foundations, individual contributors, corporations, nongovernmental organizations and foreign governments. However, all but $1.6 million of the $26.7 million in revenue it reported in 2004 came from the federal government.
The group's ties to Washington are more than financial. On its board of directors — consisting mainly of journalists, media analysts and philanthropists — sits U.S. Rep. Jim Leach, R-Iowa, whose 30-year run in Congress will end in January, and Lorne Craner, formerly a high-ranking State Department official under George W. Bush.
Although Internews has a working history with the U.S. government, it seems an unlikely candidate for funding from the President's Emergency fund for AIDS Relief, a five-year, $15 billion initiative to fight AIDS in 15 focus countries (Vietnam, as well as 14 in Africa and the Caribbean) and more than 100 other nations.