Since 1990, over 2600 journalists have been killed or murdered doing their work. Over the last month, 36 have been killed, eight injured, and three are missing. I can’t think of another civilian career with statistics like that. The number of deaths is staggering, but it’s only part of the story. Most of our dead colleagues are local journalists. Local journalists work in their hometowns, reporting on the lives of their community. They go home to sleep at night and wake up in the morning to survey the damage in the neighborhood, unlike foreign correspondents who sleep in hotels and can fly home in air-conditioned comfort at the end of the week. There is no escape for journalists reporting from home.
Through VII Academy, much of the work of The VII Foundation is focused on training and mentoring young journalists who are reporting from their own communities in some of the most challenging and most traumatic environments for journalists to work in the world.
We invite you to look back at another productive year at the work of The VII Foundation and its academy and support us as we train the next generation of journalists who build societies where information is treasured and not feared.
The highlight of our year was hosting ten of these young photojournalists for our first month-long, tuition-free residential Level 3 program at our Arles Campus. They came from Georgia, India, Indonesia, Iran, Kashmir, Nepal, Nigeria, Peru, the Philippines, Rwanda, and the U.S. During their time with us, they were mentored by some of the world’s leading practitioners and immersed in an intense multidisciplinary learning experience that stretches their imagination and challenges them in ways they have never experienced before.
Our teaching is based on decades of teaching in universities combined with decades of practicing journalism in the field – both at the highest levels. In November, we will host our second advanced program; this class comprises visual journalists from Bosnia, Bulgaria, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Hungary, Indonesia, Mexico, Morocco, and Serbia. Many of them are no strangers to the difficulties and complexities of working in places where journalists can be persecuted and murdered for doing their jobs.
The VII Foundation is the first and only media organization dedicated to providing long-term tuition-free vocational media education in the Majority World. We have trained over 1,000 practitioners (540 women and non-binary) in nine languages from 100 countries. Our courses are primarily taught in regions where media training is underfunded or nonexistent. Our students and fellows are documenting conflict in Ukraine, Myanmar, and the Middle East. They are on the frontlines of climate change and the civil rights movement worldwide.
At a time when AI leaks into our press and makes distinguishing artifice from reality ever more challenging, and when the press is constantly undermined and harassed by political and commercial forces, we are training accomplished practitioners, well-versed in contemporary media ethics and values, who are equipped to take on complex assignments for leading international media, NGOs, and corporations worldwide, and who respect the universal tenets and conventions of journalism.
To enhance the foundation’s ability to produce the complex films, exhibitions, and campaigns that we have become known for, we acquired VII Photo, a legendary photo agency synonymous with courageous and impactful journalism. VII Photo was collectively owned by its photographers and came to prominence during the aftermath of 9/11 and the chaos that followed as the narrative of a new century was being written. With VII Photo now part of The VII Foundation, we can call on the VII photographers’ skills to work on communications strategies with our partner organizations and to report on some of humanity’s most intractable issues. This year, The VII Foundation signed long-term agreements with UNICEF and The Global Fund and was granted United Nations ECOSOC Special Consultative Status.
In this review, you will also learn more about the foundation’s long-form visual journalism projects, the many cultural activities and exhibitions we run from our Arles and Sarajevo campuses, the international successes of our mentees, and the work of our VII Community and VII Insider programs.
I want to leave you with one ask. All our training for the Majority World practitioners is free, with every student’s cost fully paid for by the foundation. We believe building the capacity of local storytellers is essential to understanding our world better. Please support our mission by sharing this document with your colleagues and friends so we can grow our network of supporters, expand our funding, broaden our donor base, and work together to create a new landscape for visual journalism. You can contact us here: [email protected]
Gary Knight, CEO, The VII Foundation. November 2023.