The Budapest Center for Independent Journalism (CIJ) was established by the New York based Independent Journalism Foundation in 1995. Since then CIJ has sought to support quality and ethical journalism and aimed at contributing to a media environment where freedom of expression and freedom of the press were protected and promoted.
CIJ continues to work on this mission to demonstrate the merits and good practices of independent journalism. By focusing on professional issues, the Center intends to reclaim journalism, as a key element of democracy and service of public interest, thus it works for an improved integrity of the media industry and the community of journalists.
CIJ uses various ways to reach these goals. It has organized workshops, conferences, roundtable discussions, consultations for media professionals. Furthermore, the Center implemented mentoring and internship programs, facilitated professional dialogue via events and exchange, provided reporting grants to investigative journalists, and participated in international media development and multimedia content production projects. Since its inception, CIJ has trained thousands of journalists, media students and managers on a non-profit basis. CIJ also publishes training resource materials in Hungarian.
According to its strategic priorities CIJ focuses on the following areas:
- Supporting investigative and quality journalism in areas of data-driven journalism, data visualization, data-based storytelling, and verification of sources and online visual information;
- Enhancing digital skills via multimedia tools in reporting, using social media in journalism and audience engagement, and promoting digital security for journalists and newsrooms;
- Supporting local media by transferring journalism and business management skills including brand building, advertising, marketing, and cooperative models of networking among media organizations.
Recent and ongoing projects:
- Relaunching Journalism: supporting investigative reporting and incubation services of digital media with the aim to strengthen independent, sustainable, and accountable journalism.
- Podcasting for Advocating the Rule of Law in Hungary – a project supported by the Netherlands Helsinki Committee: In line with the objectives of the project to raise awareness of the concept of the “Rule of Law” and inform the public about the latest development in this regard, in September 2020 and April 2021 CIJ supported the production and the distribution of 36 podcast episodes produced by 8 selected Hungarian news outlets and civil society organizations. CIJ provided expertise/consultancy to the grantees and implemented a social media campaign to disseminate the produced content to a wider audience. As a result, the podcasts reached tens of thousands of the Hungarian citizens. It is to be noted that issues related to the coronavirus situation and the lockdown were discussed in several episodes in the context of the rule of law.
- Thirty Years After: Recalling the Legacy of the Year 1989 Having Resulted in Regime Change and the Reorientation in Hungary’s International Alliances
In the framework of the project CIJ organizes a conference on the developments of 1989-90 to provide context to the younger generations on what it meant for a formerly communist country to become part of the Western alliance. The Center also supports podcast production to document and disseminate what the regime change meant for everyday life in Hungary.
- Promoting the Reconciliation of Conflicting Narratives Present in Hungarian Society about the Events of 1945 – in cooperation with the Common Ground Foundation with the support of the U.S. Embassy, Budapest
The goal of the project is to change basic attitudes among Hungarians, in particular between the age of 16 and 35, by promoting the reconciliation of conflicting narratives about the events of 1945. CIJ seeks to encourage young Hungarians to do research, and produce and share creative content on how the previous generations in their families were affected by the events of 1945 and its aftermath; to facilitate a social dialog which leads to mutual understanding in Hungarian society; and to contribute to a political culture based on tolerance, empathy, civility and the respect of different opinions.
- Stealth Fighter: developing a text-comparison tool to help identify the differences between the original and the subsequent versions of online content and make the hidden changes transparent for the public.
- Get the Trolls Out: harnessing the power of social media to deliver a powerful counter-narrative against diverse forms of hate speech, including antisemitism, Islamophobia, and anti-Christian sentiment.
- Words Break Bones: strengthening communication and linguistic skills to counter manipulation and deceitful speech in online and face-to-face interactions.
- Seniors and Disinformation in the Visegrad Countries: A Neglected But Crucial Target Group
The regional project aims at enhancing media literacy skills among senior citizens in Visegrad countries (Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland) in order to help them adopt a critical approach when assessing media content.
In the last three years over a thousand media professionals and students benefitted from the different types of activities implemented by CIJ in order to strengthen investigative reporting capacities in the newsrooms and provide technical support primarily to small-scale media operations in Hungary. Around seventy professional events were organized including conferences, roundtables, a variety of training workshops, and a three-day summer camp on data journalism. Additionally, two Hackathons was held for Hungarian journalists when competing teams collected and analyzed data to be used for developing story ideas.
Previously CIJ concentrated its activities on basic journalism education, and trained hundreds of reporters and managers of local newspapers, radio and television stations primarily in the frameworks of the USAID supported ProMedia program. As the local implementing partner of the BBC, CIJ hosted television and radio courses from 1996 to 2001, and more than hundred reporters, editors and managers received BBC certificates.
Additionally, over fifty American International Knight Fellows held training courses and on-site consultations for media professionals and journalism students. Topics included investigative journalism, election coverage, business and social issues reporting, newsroom management, television and radio production, and online media.
In 1998 CIJ launched the first newsroom diversification program in Central Europe to train young Romani to become journalists. Over the years, the Roma Mainstream Media Internship Program gained international recognition. In 2009 it was selected into the top thirty diversity initiatives in the European media. Over hundred journalists of Roma origin graduated from program and the alumni received more than twenty awards and prizes for excellence in journalism. CIJ also implemented several programs to assist Roma and other civil society organizations in media relations.
As a co-founder of the South East European Network for Professionalization of Media (SEENPM), CIJ has been working together with the network member centers in Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia, and Turkey in the areas of training, research, advocacy, professional exchange, and media policy. CIJ is also member of IFEX, the Toronto based international umbrella organization of free speech NGOs.
The Center for Independent Journalism is registered as a Hungarian not-for-profit foundation, called Független Újságírók Alapítványa/Independent Journalism Foundation (registration number: 01-01-0006508).
Sándor Orbán, director
Ildikó Krajcsovics Pákozdy, office manager
The CIJ staff cooperates with a wide pool of Hungarian and international trainers and experts on a project basis.
Board of Trustees
Balázs Weyer, president
Dr. Gabriella Cseh
Since 1995 the New York-based Independent Journalism Foundation (IJF) had exercised the founding rights of the Budapest Center under the presidency James L. Greenfield. In October 2020 these rights were delegated to the board of CIJ, registered as Független Újságírók Alapítványa.