Alexander Lebedev is planning to set up a fund to support journalistic investigations into large-scale corruption, reported Press Gazette. Lebedev, owner of the Independent and the Evening Standard, who also has media interests in his home country of Russia, was speaking at a Society of Editors conference in Glasgow.
Such a foundation would give grants and prizes to organisations worldwide to carry out investigative journalism projects, he said. The fund could be in partnership with Mikhail Gorbachev, Lebedev explained, launched as part of a series of events to celebrate the former Russian head of state's 80th birthday.
Joint with Gorbachev, Lebedev owns Novaya Gazeta, a Russian paper that has been critical of the government and that has seen several of its journalists murdered. The dangers for journalists in Russia have recently attracted international attention after Kommersant reporter Oleg Kashin was beaten almost to death on 6 November having recently covered anti-Kremlin protests, and two regional reporters were attacked on 8 November. There have reportedly been 19 murders of journalists in Russia since 2000 that remain unsolved.
In his speech, Lebedev spoke out in favour of press freedom, describing the press as "a defence against tyranny, corruption and injustice." He praised the way British newspapers held MPs to account over the expenses scandal, Press Gazette reported. Journalism.co.uk quoted him as saying "In Russia, I would welcome such openness and access to information: it is what journalists do best: seeking to expose things that are wrong."
"If there is a way to help newspapers in these difficult times, when some are closing and many are finding it difficult to survive, I pledge that journalism and the basic freedoms that it brings will continue to have my support," he continued.
Lebedev also praised News Corp's Rupert Murdoch for upholding press freedom, describing him as a phenomenon, the Guardian noted.