IPI HISTORY AND ARCHIVE

Our history

In October 1950, in the aftermath of the Second World War, 34 leading editors from 16 countries gathered at Columbia University in New York City. United in the conviction that a free media would contribute to a better and more peaceful world, they agreed to form a global organisation dedicated to promoting and protecting press freedom and improving the practices of journalism. The International Press Institute was born.

For nearly seven decades, IPI has been at the forefront of the battle for media freedom and independence, providing the organisation with unmatched experience to continue its mission today.

From fighting censorship in apartheid-era South Africa, to helping free journalists imprisoned under the Greek military junta to strengthening Myanmar’s media after years of authoritarianism, IPI’s pioneering history spans continents, generations and countless innovations in news production.

During this time, IPI’s commitment to dialogue has also produced historic gatherings of journalistic communities, such as the first post-war bilateral exchange between French and German journalists in 1950s; the first post-independence meeting of Anglophone and Francophone African journalists in the 1970s; and our Israeli-Palestinian dialogue forum in the 2000s.

34 editors from 15 countries gathered at Columbia University in 1950 to form a global organisation dedicated to the promotion and protection of press freedom and the improvement of the practices of journalism. They named it the International Press Institute. The original Secretariat was set up in 1951 in Zürich.

Highlights from IPI’s first decade:

  • The Flow of the News”, the first global survey of press freedom (1953)
  • Launch of the IPI Report (1952), a monthly survey of press freedom violations worldwide, in English, French, German and Japanese
  • First bilateral post-war meeting of French and German editors (1954)
  • IPI Constitutional Conference and First General Assembly in Paris (1951)
  • Selected Publications: News in Asia (1956); The Editor and the Publisher: A Many-Sided Relationship (1957) The Press in Authoritarian Countries (1959)

IPI’s global membership and impact continued to grow rapidly in the 1960s. We carried out projects in 32 countries, with a special focus on Africa and Asia. Radio and television journalists were welcomed as members for the first time.

Highlights:

  • First post-war bilateral meetings between Turkish and Greek editors (1961) and Japanese and Korean editors (1966)
  • Global solidarity campaign with journalists living under oppression in Czechoslovakia (1968)
  • Launch of IPI’s pioneering, multi-year training programme for African journalists (1963), funded by a $300,000 grant from the Ford Foundation
  • Arranging the historic first meeting between French President Charles de Gaulle and German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer (1958)
  • First General Assemblies in Asia (Tokyo 1960, New Delhi 1966) and Africa (Nairobi, 1969)

While continuing to defend press freedom worldwide in the 1970s, IPI was also at the forefront of discussions on the impact of new technology on the media. In 1976, IPI relocated its Secretariat from Zürich to London.

Highlights:

  • Nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1976 in recognition of IPI’s “work for understanding and peace among nations”
  • First post-independence meeting of French and English-speaking African editors (1970)
  • General Assembly in Athens (1979) follows end of Greek military junta
  • Securing release of Filipino-Chinese journalists Quintin and Rizal Yuyitung – and birth of Ipi Yuyitung, Rizal’s daughter!
  • Selected publications: Libel Law and the Press (1971), The Flow of the News: International Propaganda and Communications (1972), Indian Press and Democracy (1978)

As East-West relationships dominated global discussions, IPI pierced the Iron Curtain, helping to forge new hope for freedom in Eastern Europe.

Highlights:

  • IPI’s first meeting in Eastern Europe, in Budapest, on the importance of “glasnost” in East-West relations
  • IPI members issued the Vienna Resolutions (1986) to challenge global threats to media freedom, including violations against the media in Chernobyl and South Africa and restrictions in the name of fighting terrorism
  • 1989 General Assembly in Berlin, just months before the Berlin Wall came tumbling down
  • IPI’s annual World Press Freedom Review firmly establishes itself as the indispensable review of press freedom worldwide
  • First General Assembly in Latin America (Buenos Aires and Montevideo, 1987) celebrates the return of democracy and press freedom to Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil after years of dictatorship; first General Assembly in the Arab World (Cairo, 1985)

The global democratic revolution became a central topic for IPI in the 1990s. In 1992, IPI relocated its headquarters from London to Vienna, aiming to support democratic transformations and the rise of a free and vibrant press in Eastern Europe. IPI’s work during the 1990s was instrumental in supporting the transition of former state media and state news agencies into public service institutions in Eastern Europe.

Highlights:

  • Nelson Mandela and F.W. de Klerk address the 1994 IPI General Assembly in Cape Town just two months before South Africa’s first free elections
  • Russia’s NTV becomes the first recipient of IPI’s Free Media Pioneer Award in 1997
  • First General Assemblies in Eastern Europe (Budapest 1992 and Moscow 1998)
  • Launch of IPI’s Death Watch to track the global killings of journalists
  • Vienna Declaration on Public Broadcasting marks a new era for former state media in Eastern Europe

In 2000, IPI celebrated its 50th anniversary, having grown into a global organisation with members in over 120 countries.

Highlights:

  • Honouring IPI’s first 50 World Press Freedom Heroes at a special ceremony in Boston (2000)
  • Founding of the South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO), an IPI affiliate, as region’s media seek to recover from more than a decade of conflict (2000)
  • Press freedom missions to Bangladesh, Lebanon, Nepal, Russia, Serbia, Sri Lanka and South Korea, among numerous others
  • IPI honoured with News and Documentary Emmy Award for its press freedom work (2006)

As IPI approaches its milestone 70th anniversary in 2020, we’re focused on continuing our proud tradition of fighting for media freedom and the free flow of news wherever they are threatened.

Highlights so far:

  • IPI World Congress in Myanmar (2015) supports country’s historic democratic opening
  • Israeli-Palestinian Dialogue Forum (2011) contributes to peace by building bridges among journalists
  • Press freedom missions to Ecuador, Ethiopia, Israel/Palestine, Jordan, Mexico, the Philippines, Spain, Turkey and Zambia, among many others
  • IPI returns to South Africa to mark 20-year anniversary of historic 1994 Congress (2014)
  • Process of digitising IPI’s extensive archive begins

IPI Archive

In the seven decades since IPI was founded, we have produced an unparalleled collection of documents that reflect the evolution of the global media landscape. In particular, these documents offer a unique window on the historic movement to protect and strengthen press and media freedom worldwide.

Our collection spans censorship challenges in post-war Europe; the struggle for independence in Africa and its reflection in the quest to build a free press; efforts to control information during the Cold War; years of dictatorship and revolution in Latin America; and the abuse of media as propaganda during the Balkan wars, among countless other developments. More recently, it bears witness to the tragic trend of journalists’ becoming targets in conflict zones and to the global digital transformation. The archive also stands as a testament to all those risked their lives – and in some cases, paid with them – in the service of bringing news to the people.

These documents constitute the IPI Archive, which is currently housed at IPI’s Vienna headquarters and open to researchers and journalists. We are now in the early stages of fully digitising the archive so as to make this tremendous resource available to members of the public everywhere. The complete digital archive is scheduled to be complete in September 2020, to coincide with IPI’s 70th anniversary.

IPI Archive Circle of Friends

The generosity of our supporters is what makes it possible for us to further our work in defence of media freedom and independent journalism. By joining the IPI Archive Circle of Friends and making a contribution to our digital preservation efforts, you will help tell the story of media freedom and freedom of expression over the last 70 years. In doing so, you will provide a global audience with a valuable trove of knowledge and a critical reminder of why these freedoms matter. Significantly, your support will also allow us to build new partnerships and strengthen existing ones so as to combine awareness-raising and advocacy efforts to create compelling narratives and powerful campaigns.

To learn more about the IPI Archive or to join the Circle of Friends, please contact Helena Soares at hsoares[at]freemedia[dot]at or Silvia Morales at smorales[at]freemedia[dot]at.

The digitisation of the IPI Archive is being made possible with support from the David and Elaine Potter Foundation.