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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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