HK tycoon gives US$25 mln to take UN news service private

November 21, 2014 09:24
IRIN will use a US$25 million donation from a Hong Kong tycoon to expand its services. It began by faxing news about Africa after the 1994 Rwandan genocide. Photo: IRIN website

A Hong Kong philanthropist has made a US$25 million donation to the United Nations, enabling it spin off its humanitarian news servce IRIN as an independent Swiss-based foundation.

The donation allows the UN to focus on humanitarian work and IRIN to expand to Geneva, New York and London, Reuters reported Friday.

IRIN began by faxing news about Africa in the aftermath of the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

It plans to add Chinese and Spanish language services to its existing English, French and Arabic programs and to boost output on mobile devices, interim director Ben Parker told a news conference in Geneva on Thursday.

The changes were made possible by a donation from Jho Low, director of Jynwel Charitable Foundation.

Low said the aim is to scale up coverage in the most under-reported areas of the world and build IRIN's strength so it has no short-term financial worries.

"We believe in five years time IRIN can be sustainable, with one-third of its income from donors and the balance of two-thirds from advertising and partners," he said.

Parker said IRIN will have "a fresher voice, a sharper tone and a more engaging style that's suited to the way news is shared and consumed today".

"We'll be able to ask the tough questions in the way we haven't always been able to do in the past."

The foundation's statutes will be fixed under Swiss law, guaranteeing editorial independence for its 170 freelance journalists and its non-profit nature.

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